WKU outlasts Texas State, notches fifth straight win

WKU’s junior guard T.J. Price (52) shoots and draws a foul while knocking over Texas State guard Victor Bermudez (22) as Texas State guard Corey Stern (5) tries to block during the second half of WKU’s 68-64 victory over Texas State on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. Price was the second leading scorer for the Toppers with 13 points for the night.

Kyle Williams

Despite playing from behind for a majority of the game, WKU was able to secure its fifth straight victory with a win over Texas State on Saturday night in Diddle Arena.

The Toppers (15-7, 7-2 Sun Belt Conference) are now eight games over .500 for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Junior forward George Fant led the way for WKU with 21 points and five rebounds in a game-high 36 minutes. Junior guard T.J. Price, who recorded just two points in the first half due to foul trouble, chipped in 13 points.

Redshirt senior guard Caden Dickerson, who finished with 12 points in the win, said the team is riding momentum after securing a five-game win streak and 2-0 home stand. Dickerson was scorching for the Toppers early, hitting all three of his three-point attempts through the first seven minutes of the game, propelling WKU to an early 16-14 advantage.

“It was big,” Dickerson said. “Just to get our momentum and keep the streak going. We finished with two good teams. Texas State is a great team and it was a good win.”

The Toppers continued their hot shooting, netting eight of their first 15 field goal attempts, including four-of-five from beyond the arc, but trailed Texas State, 24-21, with 7:09 remaining in the half as a result of six turnovers and lackluster free throw shooting.

Two Fant buckets and a steal leading to a breakaway dunk by senior forward O’Karo Akamune in the waning moments of the first half brought the Toppers within three, 30-27, heading into halftime.

After posting nine points and nine rebounds Thursday night against Texas-Arlington,  Akamune’s activity continued to be vital for the Toppers. The senior finished with eight points and nine rebounds against the Bobcats

“I though he was the difference,” coach Ray Harper said. “…He’s just a step quicker than guys right now. If we can get some more guys playing the way he’s playing, we’ll be okay.”

Fant opened up the second half with a bucket and scored five points early in the period for the Toppers before a three-pointer from Dickerson gave WKU its first lead since the 19:14 mark of the first half.

The lead was short lived, as Texas State answered with a three-pointer of its own, but Price would regain the lead again for the Toppers with a three-point play with 9:31 remaining in regulation.

The Toppers trailed 57-56 before freshman guard Chris Harrison-Docks forced a five-second call, leading to an emphatic and-one dunk by Fant, igniting Diddle Arena.

Fant said Docks told him he was going to find him down low and that all he had to do was finish the momentum-changing slam.

“He came down the lane, I knew he was going to drop it off,” Fant said. “He did and I knew I had to go finish.”

Price finished a strong drive to the cup with 57.7 seconds remaining to put the Toppers in front, 64-62. Texas State turned it over on the other end, virtually sealing the deal for WKU.

WKU looks to extend its five-game win streak at Arkansas-Little Rock next Saturday at 5:00 p.m. CT.

 “At the halfway point in the league we’re 7-2, 15-7,” Harper said. “We’ve got nine left. We have to get ready for next Saturday in Little Rock in a big one.”