Toppers rage against the Cajuns: move to 4-0 on the road in Sun Belt Conference play

WKU junior forward George Fant shoots a layup during the first half of WKU’s game against Georgia State in Diddle Arena on Thursday, Jan. 9.

Tyler Lashbrook

WKU coach Ray Harper said he will always be happy with his team–win or lose–as long as it fights. On Saturday afternoon the Toppers (13-7, 5-2 Sun Belt Conference) fought, almost literally, and came out with a win, 79-70, over Louisiana-Lafayette (12-8, 3-4 Sun Belt) to sweep their Louisiana road swing.

WKU is 4-0 in conference road-play for the first time since the 1969-70 season.

ULL’s Shawn Long is often called the best big man in the conference, but WKU junior forward George Fant answered that challenging matchup, finishing as the game’s high scorer with 25 points and six rebounds on 10-of-14 shooting. He also played sound defense, holding Long to just 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

Assistant coach Shawn Forrest, who coached at Louisiana-Lafayette last season before coming to the Hill, told WKU Radio that Fant was due for a big game.

“He came out tonight and I think he wanted the challenge of playing Shawn Long,” Forrest said.

Junior guard T.J. Price, WKU’s leading scorer on the season, faced early foul trouble and had to sit out most of the second half, but transfer guards Trency Jackson and Chris Harrison-Docks stepped up in his place.

Harrison-Docks totaled 18 points, though he did turn the ball over six times, and Jackson finished with 17. Jackson told WKU Radio after the game that the up-and-down tempo Lafayette likes to play catered to his style of play.

“That’s a part of my game—getting up and down the court, getting easy baskets and easy transition layups and they play just the way I like it,” Jackson said.

The tempo was fast, but things started off slow for the Toppers. Midway through the first half they were down 10, 31-21. That’s when they made their run.

Two free-throws from Harrison-Docks tied things up at 32 with 1:33 left in the first and then Aaron Adeoye banked in a shot from the right block to give WKU its first lead of the game 34-32. Jackson knocked down a long ball on WKU’s next possession, capitalizing a 16-1 run and ending the half with the Toppers up 37-32.

The Toppers carried over that momentum into the second half, extending that run to 25-1. WKU jumped out to a 16 point lead early in the second half and looked to run away, but Lafayette fought back, cutting the lead to four.

Things got heated when Harper and ULL coach Bob Marlin began arguing at midcourt after a questionable call. Both coaches approached each other and were restrained by players and assistants. They were both assessed an off-setting technical and the game continued with a heightened sense of tension.

The Cajuns cut the lead to two points with just over six minutes left and Fant responded with an and-1 finish in the post. He connected on the ensuing free throw to give WKU a 64-59 lead.

That bucket sparked a 7-0 Toppers run, but Lafayette responded with three straight points, bringing the score to 68-62.

Lafayette made a move, then Brandon Harris and Jackson scored consecutive buckets to give the Toppers an eight-point lead. ULL answered with a bucket of its own to cut WKU’s lead to six with 1:10 left.

The Toppers held on from there as the Cajuns were unable to surmount any late comeback to seal a perfect 4-0 record on the road in conference play.

The Toppers will return to action in Diddle Arena on Jan. 30 when Texas-Arlington comes to town.