Toppers get second straight win over North Texas

Lucas Aulbach

For the first time since December, the Toppers are on a winning streak.

WKU (13-11, 7-6 Sun Belt Conference) scored a 70-59 win over North Texas on the road Thursday, the second consecutive win. It’s the first time the Toppers have won two straight since they beat Florida International and North Texas in their final two games of December.

The Toppers struggled through the first half before a late run propelled them to a 27-24 halftime lead. They rushed out to an 11-point lead with about seven minutes to go before the Mean Green came back to tie the game at 51-51 with 4:33 left in the game.

Sophomore forward George Fant took over from there. He scored six of WKU’s final eight points to propel the Toppers to the win.

Coach Ray Harper said his team took their foot off the gas when they took that lead.

“I thought we got on our heels – we relaxed once we got a lead,” Harper said. “This is a team that hasn’t played much with an 11-point lead.”

Fant was WKU’s workhorse on offense, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Senior point guard Jamal Crook, in his second game back since returning from a broken foot, finished with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.

He struggled in his first game back, scoring no points last Thursday against Troy – he said he was happy to get back to form tonight.

“I’ve been working out in the gym in my days off trying to get my shot back,” Crook told WKU Radio after the game.

Harper said he was impressed with the way Crook stayed in the game.

“Jamal, I thought as the game wore on, he got better and better,” he said.

North Texas (8-17, 3-11 SBC), which has potential 2013 NBA draft pick this season in sophomore forward Tony Mitchell, has struggled this season, but the Toppers stressed earlier this week that they would not look the Mean Green over.

Harper said WKU overtook North Texas with its depth – the Toppers had nine players play more than 10 minutes, while the Mean Green played a total of eight players.

“We had a lot of guys play, and a lot of guys play well,” Harper said.

WKU will try to extend its winning streak back at home Saturday against Arkansas State.