Aulbach: Second half showed WKU’s new potential

From left, WKU’s George Fant, Chris Harrison-Docks, Trency Jackson, and T.J. Price congratulate each other after coming from behind to beat Murray State 71-64 at E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday, December 21, 2013.

Lucas Aulbach

Saturday’s win over Murray State was a good showing of what the Toppers can accomplish when all of their parts are doing their job.

The first half was all Trency Jackson, WKU’s do-it-all junior guard who gained his eligibility to play this season just a week ago. The Texas Tech transfer finished the first 20 minutes with 10 of WKU’s 28 points. Freshman guard Chris Harrison-Docks, another transfer who also logged his first minutes a week ago, finished the half with eight points and the game with 16.

The second half, however, showcased a couple of known commodities for WKU (7-4). Junior guard T.J. Price, WKU’s leading scorer who was held scoreless in the first half, picked up 15 points while junior forward George Fant dropped eight to go along with the six points he picked up in the first.

In the end, the numbers were on WKU’s side. Jackson and Fant each finished with 14 points, Price had 15, CHD led the team with 16, and the Toppers pulled away to a comeback 71-64 win.

The WKU offense was stuggling just a week ago – sometimes it looked like Fant and Price were the only two on the team capable of shouldering any significant load on offense, and that made it easy for teams to gameplan on defense coming in.

That’s not the case anymore. CHD and Trency are averaging a combined 24.3 points per game in the three times they’ve been able to take the court. All of the sudden stopping Fant in the paint and Price from behind the arc aren’t the only things opposing defenses need to worry about.

Coach Ray Harper said those four guys are the biggest reason the Toppers could pull away from Murray State (5-6) late after trailing for much of the game.

“The thing I was most proud of is how they stuck with it and grinded it out,” Harper said. “It was a grind-out Saturday, that’s just what it was. It’s kind of what you can always expect in these type of games.”

All of the sudden, WKU is a much deeper team as well.

Freshman guard Payton Hulsey, who has looked good running the point this season, finished the game with no points and one board in 12 minutes. Sophomore center Aleksej Rostov, a crucial part of last year’s NCAA Tournament run, had four points and six rebounds. Senior guard Brandon Harris didn’t score. Those are talented, important players, and all of the sudden they have the luxury of not having to carry the team.

It wasn’t always pretty, especially in the first half – there’s a reason Harper used the phrase “grind it out” to describe the win. But if the Toppers can keep playing the way they did in the last 20 minutes against the Racers, they’ll be a good challenge for any team in the Sun Belt.