Fant propels WKU to win in second half

Junior forward Aaron Adeoye pulls in a rebound in WKU’s 73-58 win over UNC-Wilmington on Nov. 21, 2013.

Tyler Lashbrook

It took a while, but junior forward George Fant got things going in the second half to lead the Toppers with 16 points Thursday night in a 73-58 win over North Carolina-Wilmington.

Fant, who scored just two points in the first 20 minutes, came alive in the second half, scoring 12 straight points for the Toppers midway through the second half. He collected eight rebounds to go with his double-digit scoring output.

“He’s our workhorse,” senior guard Caden Dickerson said. “Anytime we can let that dude eat, feed him the rock, because he’s a load down there.”

The Toppers’ slow shooting woes in their first two games didn’t slow them down early as they jumped out to a 21-8 lead to stop the half. WKU hit three of its first six tries from long range and finished 7-of-18 from deep for the game.

But UNC-Wilmington fought back, cutting the lead to five after Luke Hager knocked down a three-pointer.

Junior guard Kevin Kaspar led the Toppers in the first half with eight points, including two jumpers from behind the arc.

Junior guard T.J. Price hit just two of his seven shot attempts from the floor, but contributed three assists and collected three rebounds in the first half. He finished with a game-high six assists and also recorded seven rebounds to go along with 14 points.

Coach Ray Harper said it was one of Price’s best games as a Topper.

“He rebounded, he defended, he got other people easy shots and he scored,” Harper said. “Tonight I thought he played like a great player. A great player doesn’t always get 30 (points) and two assists. They make the game easier for everyone and I thought he did that tonight.”

The Seahawks cut the lead to six with five minutes remaining but Price found a wide open Caden Dickerson on the left wing and the senior knocked down the three-pointer. Spruill’s missed a three of his own and Price found a streaking Dickerson on the other side.

Dickerson was blocked from behind but the ball found its way to Price on the right wing. Price kicked the ball back to Dickerson, who knocked down a three from the right corner, his second in a row, to give the Toppers a comfortable 12 point lead.

UNC-Wilmington was never able to amount any sort of major comeback as the Toppers hit free throws late and coasted to the 15-point victory.

In the first half, Dickerson stole a ball at midcourt and finished off a dunk on the fastbreak. The WKU bench stood up in unison and cheered and the crowd followed suit. He joked after the game that it was a “shocker” to him that he could dunk.

“I haven’t done anything like that since high school,” Dickerson, known for his shooting touch not his leaping ability, said.

WKU’s two major issues in its first two games were free-throw shooting and turnovers. On Thursday night, the Toppers moved towards correcting those issues. They hit 16-of-20 from the charity stripe in the second half and turned the ball over just eight times the entire game.

Harper said that no one on his staff had mentioned free-throw shooting to the players throughout the week. Instead, he let things work out naturally.

“It’s a mental thing,” Harper said. “A lot of times what you’ll see with basketball teams, all it takes is one guy to step up and make a couple and everyone follows suit.

“I think we’ll be a good free-throw shooting team as this season goes on.”

The season goes on Saturday as WKU (2-1) hosts Samford (1-4) in its third straight game.

Harper said that he takes the season one game at a time, so he hasn’t checked out tape yet of the Bulldogs.

“There’s probably something on my desk about preparation for tomorrow,” Harper said. “I’ll watch some tape tonight, we’ll meet as a staff in the morning and we’ll be ready.”