Toppers roll in 75-57 win over ULM

After taking the ball from Louisiana-Monroe senior guard Jamal Crook attempts a shot past Lousiana-Monroe junior guard R.J McCray during their game Thursday night.

Lucas Aulbach

A game in Diddle Arena was just what the Toppers needed after going 0-2 last week in Florida.

WKU (14-14, 8-9 Sun Belt Conference) rolled to a 75-57 win at home over Louisiana-Monroe Saturday, snapping a three-game losing streak.

Coach Ray Harper said the key for WKU was senior point guard Jamal Crook’s play. Crook had 13 points and seven assists in the win.

“I think it all started with Jamal Crook and his ball pressure,” Harper said. “Jamal was back tonight. It’s the first time since coming off his injury that he was able to move and push the basketball, move laterally like he was pre-injury.”

The Toppers rode sophomore forward George Fant early – he had nine points in the first nine minutes and finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.

WKU also benefitted from strong play from junior guard Brandon Harris, who emerged from a recent slump to score 12 on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. He had not scored in the last three games, earning his last points on Feb. 7 against North Texas, but said he was happier about getting the win than breaking his shooting skid.

“Any win is nice,” he said. “I don’t care if you’ve won 10 in a row, the next win is still a good win, you know what I mean?”

Harper said Harris’ play was big for the Toppers in the blowout.

He said he saw Harris regain his confidence on the court Thursday, and that confidence drives him.

“I think that’s his biggest thing – sometimes he’ll overthink the game instead of just playing,” Harper said. “I thought tonight he just played. He’s a guy who can make shots and we need him to make shots.”

Freshman center Aleksejs Rostov showed potential in the paint for the Toppers as well, finishing with eight points and five rebounds in 22 minutes.

Despite some second half runs from the Warhawks, the game never seemed in doubt for WKU. The Toppers never trailed and held a 20-point lead midway through the second half en route to the 18-point victory.

The way the Toppers moved the ball was critical in the win. They recorded 18 assists for the second straight game, a feat the Toppers had not accomplished once this season before Saturday’s game against Florida International.

Success from beyond the arc was also a big factor. WKU connected on 8-of-20 three point shots.

The win puts WKU back on the right foot as the Toppers prepare for their final road trip before the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

The Toppers will take on Louisiana-Lafayette on the road Saturday.

WKU beat ULL 72-49 on Jan. 17. Harper said he and his team know the Ragin’ Cajuns will be looking for revenge this weekend.

“It’ll be a tough test for us,” he said. “I know the remember us waxing them pretty good here so they’ll be ready. We need to take another step and keep building momentum Saturday night.”