Tops toppled in regular season finale

Head coach Ray Harper scratches his head at the offical during WKU’s 63-64 loss against Belmont Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. Mike Clark/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

A sold-out crowd in Norfolk, Virginia was on hand to watch the Hilltoppers kiss their first-round-bye chances goodbye in the Conference USA tournament. Old Dominion enacted revenge defeating the WKU basketball team 75-52 in the regular season finale and dictating WKU’s fate to the number five seed in Birmingham Alabama’s conference tournament next week. 

The Monarchs forced WKU into ten first half turnovers and shut down WKU’s offense besides Seniors TJ Price and George Fant. Price scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the first half while Fant scored seven of his 15 points in the first half. The two seniors were the only players for WKU to make a field goal in the entire first half.

A 9-0 run from Old Dominion to close out the first half propelled WKU’s backpedaling into the second half. Trialing 40-21 at halftime, the Hilltoppers never led the entire game.

The Monarchs took control through capitalizing on the Hilltoppers mistakes. Old Dominion forced 19 Hilltopper turnovers and scored 24 points off turnovers compared to WKU’s five. The Monarchs also bested WKU in second chance points 17-5, and bench points 24-5. 

Old Dominion’s point guard Trey Freeman led all players with 27 points. He tallied six assists and zero turnovers, a big reason why the Monarchs were able to extend their home winning streak to 21 straight games.

“Their point guard (Freeman) really is the guy that does everything for them and you could see it tonight,” Assistant Coach Lawrence Brenneman said on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network. “We had him in control and even when we made a little bit of a run he would be the guy that would end up getting a bucket to extend it back. We had it down to 16 a few times, he would get it back to 20, control the tempo. We made a pretty good run in the second half, cut it to 15 I think, then had four consecutive turnovers.”

Sophomore guard Chris Harrison-Docks was the only other WKU player to score double digits with 11 points. He tried to rally a charge with three deep balls in the second half, but the rest of the WKU basketball team wasn’t in sync. T.J. Price’s three second-half points combined with an at capacity crowd of 8,472 didn’t allow the Hilltoppers to reach 20 wins before the end of the regular season.

“We told the guys it was going to be a physical game,” Brenneman said. “They are going to come hit you and you know what? You have to know what’s coming, you have to want the physicality, that’s part of a big time game like this and it’s not going to be any different in Birmingham this week.”

The Hilltoppers next game will be in the Conference USA tournament, a tournament they will hope to win if they would like to advance the the NCAA tournament the following week. WKU’s game matchup will be released later this evening.