Toppers prevail in second half to win their first home game of the season

Junior T.J. Price shoots 2 points. Price scored 18 points in the game. WKU won 57-52 against East Tennessee State on Nov. 16, 2013 at E.A. Diddle Arena. 

Tyler Lashbrook

WKU held off a late scare to beat East Tennessee State 57-50 in its first home game of the season.

The Toppers shot just 25 percent in the first half but knocked down 10-of-18 from the field in the second half. Junior forward George Fant said the team needs “to slow down.”

“We’ve got a lot of good games coming up, a lot of good practice time,” Fant said. “So that’s something we could work on, something we could fix.”

Junior guard T.J. Price and Fant led the way for the Topper with 18 and 17 points, respectively.

WKU struggled to get the offense rolling in the first half.

Freshman guard Payton Hulsey, who registered his first start at point guard as a Topper, dribbled into the defense and kicked the ball out for numerous open jumpers but WKU couldn’t know them down. The Topper shot just 25 percent from the floor in the first half and 1-of-13 from three.

But ETSU couldn’t find its rhythm either. The Buccaneers hit four of their 20 shots from the field, surviving the first half at the free throw line. Their first eight points in the game came from the stripe.

Coach Ray Harper relied heavily on the shoulders of three true freshmen in the first half. Hulsey, freshman walk-on guard Brandon Price and freshman forward Ben Lawson played together for a five minute stretch near the end of the first half.

WKU maintained its lead with the freshmen core on the floor and went into halftime up 25-20.

The Toppers flew out of the locker room at half time, taking a 36-22 lead after senior guard Caden Dickerson intercepted a pass in the backcourt and his left handed layup attempt was goaltended.

The Buccaneers clawed their way back in the game, though, and cut WKU’s lead to five with just over a minute to go.

On the Toppers next possession, T.J. Price drove left and dumped a pass off on the baseline to Fant who skipped a pass to junior guard Kevin Kaspar on the right wing. Kaspar rose and sunk the three-ball to extend WKU’s lead back to eight.

Kaspar then took a charge on ETSU’s ensuing possession and the Buccaneers were unable to catch up to the Toppers.

Harper said that the Toppers won the game because of their defense.

“Defensively at times we were really good,” the coach said. “Sometimes you have to win when you don’t play well and that’s what we did tonight. We didn’t shoot the ball well.”

The Toppers held ETSU to 25 percent shooting from the field.

“We turned the ball over but we found a way to win because we played pretty good defense,” Harper said.