Shooting woes hurt WKU in tight loss to UALR

Junior guard Brandon Harris fights for a rebound off a missed free throw against UALR in the second half at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Lucas Aulbach

The Toppers may have snapped a three-game losing streak Thursday in a blowout win over Louisiana-Lafayette, but they looked like a team in a deep offensive funk Saturday.

WKU (11-9, 5-5 Sun Belt Conference) lost 59-54 at home against Arkansas-Little Rock. The Trojans are now 2-0 against WKU this year.

The Toppers had trouble in almost all areas on offense against UALR. WKU hit just 16-of-49 field goals and had just seven assists to 18 turnovers.

Coach Ray Harper said the problems the Toppers had moving the ball was a big reason for the loss.

“We didn’t get the ball movement we needed,” Harper said. “(The Trojans) have got some quickness on the perimeter and they’ve got some size. Right now that causes us some problems and it did today.”

Outside of junior guard Brandon Harris and sophomore forward Geore Fant, the Toppers struggled to find any scoring at all.

Harris, who had 22 points, and Fant, who had 13, combined for 35 of WKU’s 54 points and were the only Toppers to score more than six points. Only six players for WKU scored against the Trojans.

Harris was a bright spot on offense for WKU, making 6-of-11 three-point shots and pulling in eight rebounds, which tied junior forward O’Karo Akamune for most on the team.

Another bright spot was the return of junior guard Caden Dickerson, who played Saturday for the first time since injuring his shoulder in Nov. 29. Dickerson received a standing ovation from the Diddle Arena crowd when he entered the game in the first half.

Rebounding the basketball was one area the Toppers were successful for much of the game. After pulling in 11 of the first 12 rebounds in the game, WKU outrebounded the Trojans 37-31.

Those numbers, however, skew what Akamune said was a poor game under the basket for WKU.

“I really think beat us in the paint, they just locked us down in the paint,” Akamune said. “We really didn’t get too many points near the basket.”

One look at the scorecard shows what kind of struggles the Toppers had in the paint. Senior center Teeng Akol had five points and one rebound while freshman center Aleksejs Rostov scored two points and pulled in four rebounds.

Harper said the Toppers will need more from the center position if they want to win.

“I look at their production combined,” the coach said. “You got seven points and five rebounds out of 46 minutes. They played 46 minutes and we got seven points and five rebounds. We need better production than that.”

A trip south may change WKU’s fortunes. The Toppers head to Mobile, Ala., for their next game, on Thursday against South Alabama.