Hilltoppers fall to Rice after losing late lead

WKU’s guard Aaron Cosby (2) drives towards the basket during the Hilltopper’s 84-71 win over Lindsey Wilson College on Monday at Diddle Arena.

Matthew Stewart

The WKU men’s basketball team (9-8) dropped their third conference matchup of the season late Thursday night as they fell on the road to Rice University 83-73.

The matchup against the Owls (6-11) in Houston was the first leg of the Hilltoppers’ four-game, 3,400 mile road trip.

Once again, WKU had a double digit lead in the second half and allowed their opponent to get back in the game. With the Hilltoppers leading 70-62 with 6:38 to play, Rice scored 11-straight points to take a 73-70 lead. The Owls would then end the game scoring 21 of the game’s last 24 points.

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However, WKU opened the game strong. Senior forward Aleksej Rostov got the Hilltoppers going early as he scored the first five points of the game for WKU.

For the rest of the first half senior guard Aaron Cosby took over the game for the Hilltoppers, scoring 20 points in the half. He would go on to be the game’s high scorer with 23 total points. He shot 50 percent from the floor in the period as he went 7-14 from the field. Cosby also shot well from three-point range, shooting 4-7 from deep.  

Cosby lead all scorers at the half and carried the Hilltoppers to a 35-31 lead over Rice heading into halftime.

Coming out of halftime Ray Harper and company came out strong. Freshman guard Marlon Hunter led the team in scoring in the half with 10 points. But strong play from the guard positions couldn’t put the game away for WKU.

The Hilltoppers managed to go up by as many as 13 points in the second half, but those late runs put together by Rice would prove to be too much for the team in red to handle.

Unfortunately for WKU, Cosby didn’t match his first half production during the second half. The senior went 1-7 from the field for only three points.

Hunter racked up 12 points and five rebounds in the game, just shy of his career highs in both categories.

Sophomore forward Justin Johnson came away with only eight points and nine rebounds. Johnson’s streak of 14-straight games scoring in double figures ended on Thursday.

WKU ended the game with a large 43-28 advantage on the boards over the Owls as the Hilltoppers also managed to tally 21 offensive rebounds. However, it was defense which doomed WKU again as Rice shot an efficient 50 percent from the field in the game as yet another team score over 80 points on the Hilltoppers.

The Hilltoppers fall to 1-3 in C-USA play as the team is now headed across the state of Texas to take on the Mean Green of the University of North Texas on Saturday. The game will be played in Denton, Texas. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM.