Hilltoppers grind out win over FAU, 71-68

WKU senior guard Trency Jackson (3) breaks into the lane during the first half of the Hilltoppers’ matchup against Conference USA opponent UTSA. The Toppers would go on to win the game 83-74, remaining undefeated in conference play. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

WKU overcame 29-32 halftime deficit to grind out a 71-68 win Thursday night over visiting Florida Atlantic.

The Hilltoppers (17-10, 10-5) utilized an 18-2 run midway through the second half to take control of a half that had six lead changes in the opening minutes.

“I was getting tired of the lackadaisical stuff,” WKU senior guard Trency Jackson said. “We were out there just going through the motions. I got to be that igniter. Cut that switch on.”

FAU (8-18, 1-13 CUSA) was eliminated from eligibility for the C-USA tournament with the loss.

The three seniors—Jackson, George Fant, and TJ Price all notched a team-high 17 points.  The trio combined to shoot 19 of 31 from the field.  

“We just played tight, especially in the first half,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “That’s what we talked about. ‘Loosen up…  quit worrying about the outcome will take care of itself.’ I thought we did that. We got down eight and I thought our pressure affected them a little bit and got us going.”

The Hilltoppers went 6:08 without a point near the end of the first half, but managed to trail by just three at the break after a three ball from freshman Avery Patterson to end the half.  

“We only had two offensive rebounds at halftime. I think we had six in the second half,” Justin Johnson said. “That’s where you’re going to win games—second-chance points. You’re not going make all the first shots, so you have to get some second-chance opportunities.”

The Hilltoppers next opponent is FIU, who they will welcome into Diddle Arena on Saturday. Tip off is set for 7 CT.