Tops’ second-half rally secures 81-74 win at Ole Miss

Senior guard T.J. Price (52) makes a layup during WKU’s 63-64 loss against Belmont Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. Price played all 40 minutes of the game and scored 15 points. Mike Clark/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

The Hilltoppers rallied back from a 17-point first-half deficit to defeat Ole Miss (6-3) Saturday, 81-74 in Oxford, Mississippi. The win marked the first time road SEC victory for WKU (4-4) since 2006.

WKU was in a similar situation against Murray State on Dec. 6. The Hilltoppers came out down 17 at halftime against the Racers and put forth a comeback effort, but would not be able to overcome the deficit as WKU lost by 12.

The Hilltoppers used a second-half run to overcome another 17-point deficit on Saturday and this time, they didn’t give it up.

“There were a lot of areas we were better,” Head Coach Ray Harper said on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network. “We keep talking about taking care of the basketball, we had nine turnovers. And we need to make free throw — we were 15-of-15 in the second half. It’s easy to sit here and talk about it but when you do it, you become a totally different basketball team, and today we were able to do that.”

Senior guard T.J. Price played two completely different periods Saturday. In the first half, Price scored five points after shooting one-for-four from the field. In the second half, Price scored 21 points, shot six-for-10 from the field and made all six of his free throws. Price hit six of his last seven shots and led all players in points (26) and rebounds (10) while also leading his team with five assists. WKU outscored Ole Miss 49-29 in the second half.

“I want to say it came from the defensive end,” Price said of his and the team’s confidence on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network. “When we were getting stops, when we were coming back we saw the ball going in and getting buckets. When we didn’t make the ball, it was still great shots, and we were still come back on the end and getting more stops.”

Price was one of four Hilltoppers to reach double-digit points against the Rebels. The others included senior forward George Fant, who had 17 points and nine rebounds, Chris Harrison-Docks who finished with 12 and senior guard Trency Jackson, who tallied 10.

Stefan Moody led the charge for the Rebels, posting 25 points after hitting six three-pointers and making all five of his free throws. Moody led all scorers at halftime after hitting four three-pointers in the first half to reach 14 points, but he struggled in the second half.

Harper told Hilltopper IMG Sports Network in the second half during a timeout that he wanted his team to finish strong.

“In the game of basketball, the most aggressive team usually wins. We have to be the most aggressive going forward, and I think we were.” Harper said.

WKU’s next game will be Wednesday, Dec. 17 against Chicago State at Diddle Arena.