Consistency hard to come by for Toppers

Lucas Aulbach

It has been hard to put a label on the Toppers over the course of the past month.

WKU (11-9, 5-5 Sun Belt Conference) was ravaged by injuries early in the season — junior guard Caden Dickerson suffered a separated shoulder at the end of November and played for the first time in over a month Saturday against Arkansas-Little Rock, senior point guard Jamal Crook broke his foot in December and remains on the sideline, and sophomore guard T.J. Price is just returning to full strength after being hampered by a sprained ankle suffered last month.

Minor injuries caused several other Toppers, such as freshman forward Eddie Alcantara and sophomore guard Kevin Kaspar, to miss time as well.

The loss of Crook was especially important. Crook is the only true point guard on WKU’s roster and had gotten off to a strong start to the season —  while the Toppers have won games in his absence, the offense hasn’t looked the same with others filling in at the point.

Coach Ray Harper said the injuries to many of his key scorers has hurt the Topper offense.

“We need production from guys on a consistent basis,” Harper said. “We can’t be guessing on who’s going to show up from one game to the next.”

The injury bug got so bad that the coach had to call in some reinforcements — Kawaun Jakes, senior quarterback of the football team, and Marcus Vasquez, senior wide receiver, joined the team the day after the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Jakes has since left the team to focus on football, while Vasquez plays an average of three minutes per game.

All of the changes to the lineup have taken a toll on the Toppers, who have lost four of their past five games.

Sophomore forward George Fant has stayed relatively healthy, playing in 19 of the 20 games the Toppers have played. He said the team is looking for ways to overcome inconsistent play.

“It is tough to be kind of streaky right now,” Fant said. “We’ve got to get back in the lab and find a way to win.”

WKU can get back on track this week — the Toppers face South Alabama on the road Thursday in their next game before taking a trip to Murfreesboro Saturday to take on Middle Tennessee.

Junior guard Brandon Harris said the Toppers hope to improve against the Sun Belt competition.

“You’d love to win every game, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen,” Harris said. “We’re going to have our game. We really don’t worry about the guys in the other jerseys, we worry about what’s on our jersey.”