Harper wants WKU to hit shots vs. UNC-Wilmington

Tyler Lashbrook

WKU’s defense has been good enough that its early shooting woes aren’t a major concern to coach Ray Harper.

“I’m really not concerned about whether it goes in or it doesn’t go in,” Harper said. “I’m really not. I’m concerned with, ‘Are we taking good shots?’ And we are.”

The Toppers shot 28.6 percent from the field in their midnight loss against Wichita State. Against East Tennessee State, the Toppers shot 36 percent from the field — including an 8-of-32 first half — in a narrow, seven-point victory.

Harper said he wasn’t disappointed with the cold start Saturday from WKU (1-1) because his players were taking shots that they are capable of making.

“I think it’s our job to continue to build confidence and shoot the basketball,” Harper said Tuesday. “That’s what we told them yesterday, ‘Look, we didn’t shoot it well, who cares?’ We’re a good basketball team, we shoot the ball well next game out, all those shots that didn’t go in probably really will go in.”

The Toppers will have a chance to turn it around on offense tonight at Diddle Arena when they face North Carolina-Wilmington at 7 p.m.

UNC-Wilmington (3-2) is coming to town fresh off of a Monday win over Liberty and have scored 80 or more points in each of the last three games, all wins.

Harper said the Seahawks play high-energy basketball.

“They want to play fast,” he said Tuesday. “We’ll see zone a lot on Thursday night, so hopefully the game against East Tennessee was a prelude and will help us a little bit Thursday night.”

The Topper offense will be key if WKU hopes to keep up with the Seahawks.

WKU has hit only 11 of its 50 three-point attempts and is converting free-throws at a 51.6 percent rate through two games this year, but the Toppers have survived because of their intense defensive play.

They held Wichita State, ranked No. 16 in the country, to 38.5 percent shooting in the first half and East Tennessee State only hit 13 shots on Saturday.

Junior forward George Fant said the Toppers have the talent to emerge from their early slump on offense.

“We have a team full of capable, great shooters,” Fant said. “Sometimes you’re on, sometimes you’re off. That’s the game of basketball. You put the ball up, you work on your game and work on your shot enough, you expect everything will go in, but sometimes things just don’t go in for you.”

Turnovers are another issue that has nagged the Toppers in their first two games. WKU is averaging 20 per contest and Harper said that some of those turnovers came from “poor decisions.”

He said that correcting the turnovers and shooting better from the line will help the Toppers.

We’ve got to shoot better from the free-throw line, unguarded. That is a must,” Harper said. “That and take care of the basketball and we’ll be fine if we continue to defend like we are.”