Basketball notebook: Price named tournament’s Most Outstanding Player

Preisdent Gary Ransdell and asstitant men’s basketball coach David Boyden celebrate WKU’s victory of Florida International in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game to clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Lucas Aulbach

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Last year, George Fant earned Most Outstanding Player honors from the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. This season, sophomore guard T.J. Price will take home the trophy.

Price was named the MOP of this year’s tournament after the Toppers beat Florida International Monday and was honored at midcourt after the game.

Fant and junior guard Brandon Harris were named to the all-tournament team as well.

Price was a deserving candidate of the honors. Over the course of WKU’s four games, he averaged 18 points and 4.25 rebounds.

His biggest game came Sunday against Arkansas State. On a night where several other Toppers struggled to find their groove, Price dropped 24 points and seven rebounds on the No. 2 seed Red Wolves and recorded a crucial steal in the final minute.

Price said winning the MOP award was not his priority — helping the Toppers advance was.

“I’ll do anything to make the team win, if I’m scoring points or not,” he said. “If coach tells me to go out there and lock up the best defender, then that’s what I’m going to do my best.”


Harris enjoys title win


Junior guard Brandon Harris wasn’t around last season when the Toppers made their run to the postseason, but he often said he felt like he was there.

This season, he was there. And he was a big reason why WKU will be advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

The JUCO transfer said his teammates never told him what it felt like to be at the top of the Sun Belt Conference.

“They never told me about it at all,” Harris said as confetti rained down onto the court after the game. “They just told me ‘Brandon, go out here and you’ll know what it feels like. Go out here and play hard and you’ll know what it feels like.’ And they were right. I know what it feels like now.”

Harris, who was named to the all-tournament team, averaged nine points per game over the four SBC Tournament games and connected on a total of 10 3-point shots over the course of the four games.

He saved his best for last, scoring 11 points against ASU in the semifinals and 12 against FIU in the title game.

Harris said the four wins were the product of hard work in practice all season.

“We get upset in practices a lot of times, coaches maybe don’t call something our way, and it’s just funny that this whole season going through that actually prepares you for those moments and you never realize it,” he said. “You never realize it until that actual time, and it’s just good to see the work actually pay off.”


Fant bounces back in win against FIU


Sunday’s game against ASU might not be one that sticks out in Fant’s memory, but his performance the next night was one Topper fans will be talking about for a long time.

Fant laid an egg against the Red Wolves, fouling out in the final minutes after recording five points and three rebounds while shooting 0-for-6 from the field.

Harper said after the game that night that the Toppers would not beat FIU unless Fant bounced back from that performance, and he did so with a vengeance — Fant scored 17 points while recording 13 rebounds and four blocks in Monday’s championship game.

“Last night after we got the win, I came in and told everybody, ‘Thank you for having my back. Believe in my performance tomorrow, I’m not going to play like that twice,’” he said after Monday’s win.

Harris said Fant put out a performance Monday that everyone on the team knew he was capable of.

“Coach said last night if he doesn’t play good we don’t win and he came out here and he dominated tonight, just like George Fant knows he can do,” he said.

Harper said the gameplan coming into the FIU game was to put the ball in Fant’s hands. The coach said he felt like the forward had an advantage in the paint over his FIU competition.

“We were going to ride him, no question. We felt like let’s get him the basketball inside tonight, big fella will go to work for us, and that’s what he did,” Harper said.


Ransdell pleased to be back in NCAA Tournament


This will be the second NCAA Tournament for a lot of WKU basketball players.

While that number may seem high, it’s nowhere close to the amount of tournaments president Gary Ransdell has witnessed.

Ransdell, who has been president at WKU since 1997, has been at the helm for WKU for six NCAA Tournament appearances — this season will mark the seventh time the Toppers have reached the postseason in his term.

Ransdell said he’s proud of the way the Toppers have performed at the Sun Belt Tournament in his time as president.

“In would say over the last dozen years, we’ve owned this tournament,” he said.

Ransdell said WKU belongs in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field.

“It’s part of our DNA, part of our history, it’s where we belong — in the postseason,” he said.