Tops back to winning ways on Senior Night

Senior guard, Trency Jackson, is introduced for the starting before The Hilltoppers took on Florida International University at E. A. Diddle Arena, Saturday Feb. 28, 2015. Jeff Brown/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

A crowd of 7,119, the second biggest this season, was on hand Saturday night to watch the WKU basketball team honor its three seniors and defeat Conference USA opponent FIU 77-61. Seniors George Fant, Trency Jackson and T.J. Price combined for 37 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists and a final victory at Diddle Arena.

With the seniors success also came bench success for WKU, out scoring FIU’s bench 32-10. 8 of ten WKU players that played scored for the Hilltoppers including Justin Johnson, Aleksej Rostov and Ben Lawson who all had nine points. Sophomore guard Chris Harrison-Docks tallied eight of his own as well.

“I thought everyone really contributed,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “We got back to moving the basketball…It abandoned us for a little bit but we got back to it today, hopefully we can continue it as we go down the stretch.”

Along with the impressive scoring night, WKU had 21 assists compared to their 15 turnovers, a winning formula the Hilltoppers will look to reproduced with only two games left until the C-USA tournament.

On the opposite end, WKU forced 13 turnovers and held the Panthers to 39.6 shooting percentage from the field. The Hilltoppers forced FIU to shoot 6-of-15 from beyond the arc, compared to WKU’s 11-of-21 mark, which seemed to be another driving force in the Hilltoppers 18th victory of the season.

“The offense was going tonight, but what really changed was our defense,” Price said. “They scored 61 points and held them to 39 percent shooting…We take a lot of pride in our defense.”

Jackson led all players with 17 points. He tied a career high hitting five three pointers in the first half and again was a vocal leader to the club.

Price finished his senior night with 15 points and six assists while Fant, who had foul trouble the entire game, finished with five points and seven rebounds.

During the final minutes, Harper took a timeout to sub out all three seniors. A moment when a packed Diddle Arena rose to its feet to give the players a final thank you and goodbye.

“There was so much energy in the building,” Jackson said. “It was unbelievable. Perfect way to go out.”

“I’m just Happy,” Price said. “Real happy. Classic style. Thankful really, just blessed. Couldn’t have asked for nothing better. I’m just happy and blessed.”

The Hilltoppers (18-10, 11-5 C-USA) are now in a three way tie for third place in conference USA with UTEP and Old Dominion. WKU’s next game will be Thursday, March 5 at Charlotte who is currently ranked 11th in C-USA.