Toppers struggle in loss at South Alabama

Lucas Aulbach

WKU’s offensive struggles continued Thursday in a 65-57 road loss to South Alabama.

Fouls and a failure to convert from beyond the three-point line ended up costing WKU the game – while the Jaguars led for almost all of regulation, the Toppers were never out of the game.

The Toppers shot themselves out of the game, though, only hitting 37 percent of the shots they took.

They were even worse from beyond the arc – WKU shot just 29 percent from three.

Sophomore guard T.J. Price was WKU’s greatest threat from behind the three-point line, hitting four of WKU’s six three-point shots.

Still, WKU (11-10, 5-5 Sun Belt Conference) couldn’t get ahead and the slump continues – the Toppers have now lost five of the past six games.

Coach Ray Harper said WKU has a problem converting when the clock starts.

“The kids are working hard,” Harper told WKU Radio. “They’ve been great, come back to practice and work every week, but we just don’t convert opportunities.”

The absence of senior point guard Jamal Crook was evident yet again. Crook, the only true point guard on WKU’s roster, was out again due to a broken foot and is expected to return as early as next week.

The Toppers struggled without their floor general, committing 17 turnovers to just eight assists.

Junior guard Brandon Harris played the point in place of Crook for much of the night and ended up with a solid line – he had 14 points and a team-leading seven rebounds.

Price said the absence of Crook isn’t the only reason WKU fell to the Jaguars.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries and I feel like that’s kind of what set us back, but we can’t use that as an excuse anymore,” he said.

None of the Toppers could match the production of South Alabama forward Augustine Rubit.

Rubit had 19 points and 11 rebounds while recording three blocks on the night.

Harper didn’t hold back when he offered praise to Rubit.

“I haven’t seen anyone in the league better,” he said about the forward.

WKU’s next opponent isn’t any easier. The Toppers will head to Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Saturday to take on the Sun Belt-leading Blue Raiders.

Harper said MTSU will be the biggest conference challenge for the Toppers yet.

“They’re the real deal,” Harper said. “I think they’ve separated themselves from everyone in the league.”