Late push helps WKU earn win over Samford

Lucas Aulbach

It wasn’t always pretty, but a 28-point effort from junior guard T.J. Price and some late heroics from walk-on freshman guard Brandon Price were enough to push the Toppers to a 67-64 win over Samford at Diddle Arena Saturday night.

WKU (3-1) is now on a three-game winning streak, but coach Ray Harper was far from impressed after the game, calling Saturday’s game the worst defensive performance of the season from his team.

“We’ve got some things to get corrected,” he said. “I think the biggest thing with this basketball team and this game was their mental approach. A mature basketball team does not take the mental approach that we took tonight.”

WKU’s offense Saturday came almost entirely from junior guard T.J. Price and junior forward George Fant. Price finished with 28 points, including four three-pointers, while Fant had 17 in the win.

Senior guard Brandon Harris also made his return to the court after missing the first three games with a sprained ankle. He finished with three points, two assists and two rebounds in 12 minutes of play.

WKU’s most important player, though, according to Harper, was Brandon Price.

Price came into the game for the first time late in the second half. With the game tied 52-52, he hit a clutch three-pointer with 4:21 to go to give WKU a 55-52 lead.

He got to the bucket again on the next possession, driving for a lay-up to give WKU another three-point lead. He recorded a steal two possessions later and finished with seven points.

“Brandon Price was the difference,” Harper said after the game. “His heart, his energy was the difference in the game. If we did not put him in the game, this would’ve had a different outcome.”

Brandon Price finished with 13 minutes of play, but he said it’s not his job to worry about playing time.

“My job isn’t to sit on the bench and complain about not getting in,” he said. “My job is to be ready when coach calls my number. I just try to remember that and just be ready at all times.”

The Toppers struggled at times against Samford. After going to halftime with a 34-31 lead, WKU spent much of the second half playing catch-up with the opponent.

Fant said he was just happy the Toppers turned it on late.

“We came out kind of flat,” he said. “We weren’t aggressive enough, we gave up a few buckets that we shouldn’t have given up, but at the end of the night I’m pretty happy with our second half performance towards the end.”

With a weekend of basketball behind them, the Toppers will take the court at practice for the next few days before returning to the court Tuesday at Marshall.

Harper said the Toppers will need to show more effort next time if they want to extend their wining streak to four games.

“Take nothing away from Samford,” he said. “They outplayed us, they outworked us, and we were fortunate to win the game. I think it’s because our mental preparation has to be the same every night. Our identity has to be about energy, heart and toughness, and that was not the case tonight.”