Crook, Toppers looking to get revenge on FAU Thursday night

Cole Claybourn

Senior guard Jamal Crook called Thursday night’s battle against Florida Atlantic a revenge game.

The Toppers (8-17, 4-8 Sun Belt Conference) lost by one at FAU on Jan. 26, having a chance to win at the end but falling 67-66 after leading by nine late in the second half.

Thursday’s game at 7 p.m. Diddle Arena will be a chance for WKU to even the score against FAU this season and earn a much-needed win with just four games left until the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

“Yeah, we owe them,” Crook said. “Going down there at that game we had opportunities to win it and we came up short. It came down to a last-second shot which we didn’t want. That’s the way the game goes.

“We’re looking to come in and knock them out — give them the first punch, second, third, however many it takes to get this win.”

Both Crook and Interim Head Coach Ray Harper talked about how fatigue affected the team’s play in a 83-77 loss to Troy on Saturday.

But WKU hasn’t played since Saturday and Harper said the Toppers should be well-rested. He also didn’t want to use fatigue as an excuse because he’s aware of the likelihood that WKU will have to win four games in four days in order to win the Sun Belt Tournament.

If the tournament started today, WKU would be playing in the 8-9 seed game on March 3, with a potential second round matchup with first place Middle Tennessee State looming byond that.

Harper said the team has upped the pace in practice in order to prepare for that potential gauntlet games.

“If you’re going to have a chance, you must not let fatigue or bumps and bruises bother you at that time of year,” he said. “I thought we had done a really good job of overcoming some of those things — Saturday it showed up a little bit. Give our guys credit, I thought they still competed and played hard, it just looked like they hit the wall.”

The Owls are coming off two straight home wins — a one-point victory over Denver and a double-overtime win over North Texas. 

They’re led in scoring by guard Greg Gantt, who averages 14.3 points a game. In the last meeting, though, it was Shavar Richardson who did in the Toppers. 

Richardson, a 6-foot-3 guard who’s only averaging 6.2 points per game this season, went off for 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the first meeting.

Harper said he doesn’t want his team to be focused too much on the revenge factor, but more so on just being ready to play a hard-fought game.

“I just want them to be ready and be prepared and understand we’re gonna be facing an extremely good basketball team and we need to play well,” Harper said. “We need to hopefully be in the same situation we were at Florida Atlantic and this time finish it off.”