After winning two games at home the week prior, the WKU men’s basketball team headed down South for a pair of road games at the end of last week.
The Hilltoppers traveled to Ruston, Louisiana, on Thursday to take on one of the top teams in Conference USA in Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs (16-8, 8-3) took down the Tops by a final score of 76-67.
“It’s kind of the same song and dance … when you don’t play well, get yourself in a hole, and then scramble and try to get it back,” head coach Rick Stansbury told the media after the game. “Give them credit, [Jacobi] Boykins jumped up and made some shots. He made some difficult shots to separate that game. The positive things this game were we got down 12 at halftime, and we had opportunities coming out of the locker room. We had two layups and threw them away. Those things are hard when you’re fighting from behind.”
Junior forward Justin Johnson led the Hilltoppers with 23 points and 10 rebounds and senior point guard Junior Lomomba was the only other Topper to score in double figures. Lomomba ended his night with 13 points while dishing out two assists along the way.
The second game of the road stretch was a different story, however. The Tops were in control for the duration of the game as they took on the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi. Stansbury and his squad started off on the right foot, going on several big runs in the first half.
The Hilltoppers built up a substantial first-half lead, going up 35-16 with just under two minutes to play before halftime.
“It was good to see us put two halves together,” Stansbury said. “You’re always concerned coming back out on that Saturday night when you play Thursday, especially playing a team that’s probably coming in off their biggest win of the year, playing with some confidence. But our guys responded. I thought we came out ready to play offensively and defensively.”
The second stanza was all Tops again as they traveled back home with a 64-47 victory. With the win, WKU improved to 12-12 on the season and 6-5 in conference play.
The Hilltoppers will look to keep the momentum gained from wins in three of their last four games when they return home this Saturday for a matchup with Marshall.
“I think it was super important, just to get us momentum going into the home games,” senior guard Pancake Thomas told the media after the game. “Now it has everyone feeling good and in good spirits to try and get some more wins.”
Thomas led the offensive attack to take down the Eagles. The senior guard scored 18 points while Johnson posted another double-double for the Tops with 12 points and 15 boards. Senior guard Que Johnson added 11 points as well.
“Whenever guys are making shots and whenever guys are attacking the basket and getting the ball down low to Justin, Anton [Waters] or Ben [Lawson], you get good looks off that,” Lomomba told the media after the game.
C-USA basketball was turned upside down this past weekend with three of the top teams in the league being taken down. Middle Tennessee, Marshall and UAB all lost over the weekend. With upsets across the league, the conference race is still relatively open as seven teams have conference records of 6-5 or better and remain within four games of MTSU (10-1).
With top-tier teams Marshall, MTSU and UAB coming into Diddle Arena over the course of the next two weeks, the Hilltoppers have some big opportunities ahead.
“I think it’s going to help big time because we got some days off,” Thomas said. “When you get days off you be able to get in the gym some more. As far as practice, you don’t get to work on your game as much but a couple off days, and you’ll be able to get a little more skill work in.”
Tip-off for Saturday’s game against the Thundering Herd is set for 5 p.m. in Diddle Arena.
Reporter Matthew Stewart can be reached at 859-797-3140 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MES_WKU22.