Toppers keep home winning streak alive in FIU win

Elliott Pratt

WKU wiped away the woes of last week’s three straight losses by returning to Diddle Arena Thursday night and defeating Florida International 76-63.

The win was No. 11 in a row for the Toppers in Diddle Arena and moves the team to 3-0 in the Sun Belt Conference this year.

Prior to tip-off, a special ceremony was held to name the court after former legendary coach John Oldham, who took the Toppers to their only Final Four in 1971.

Sophomore forward George Fant dominated the paint from start to finish with a career-high 24 points, including a 100-percent outing at the free throw line.

If sophomore guard Kevin Kaspar’s hamstring was bothering him at all during the game, he didn’t let anyone notice. He drained a team-high five three-point shots on his way to a career-high 17 point performance in the WKU (9-5, 3-0 SBC) win.

Kaspar said despite not practicing all week, he told coach Harper he was ready to play.

“I’m not 100 percent yet, I haven’t practiced five days in a row just to get it better,” Kaspar said. “I’m fine with a little pain. I told coach Harper before the game that if he puts me in I’ll be ready to go.”

WKU and FIU entered the second half knotted at 33. Brandon Harris’ consistency from the free throw down the stretch allowed the Hilltoppers to pull away the program’s 2,500th win.

Injuries have plagued WKU in recent weeks and coach Harper says tonight was an impressive display of his team’s toughness.

“They gutted it out,” Harper said. “You can tell by watching the game that we aren’t at 100 percent, but we’re getting there.”

New additions to the team could provide an interesting twist to the roster in a short period of time.

After playing in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl just 24 hours before tip-off, senior wide receiver Marcus Vasquez and senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes had officially joined the basketball roster, both playing the guard position.

Vasquez saw one minute of action, while Jakes didn’t see the court until the end of the game when Harper pulled his starters.

Harper said Jakes and Vasquez are two men that could make a quick impact on his team.

“If I didn’t think they could help us I wouldn’t have brought them on board,” Harper said. “Practices just got a lot more competitive. They’re going to bring some added energy and toughness to our team.”

Vasquez said he wanted to help the team out and that basketball has always been his first love.

“I’ve been playing basketball all my life up until college,” Vasquez said. “The opportunity was there and (Harper) gave me a shot and I appreciate it.”

WKU will return to action Saturday night when they host North Texas at  p.m. in Diddle Arena.