WKU drops heartbreaker to FAU 67-66

Lucas Aulbach

A late run by Florida Atlantic spoiled WKU’s upset hopes Thursday, as the Toppers fell 67-66 in Boca Raton, Fla.

WKU (6-15, 2-6 Sun Belt Conference) led 63-52 with 4:29 to go after controlling most of the second half but surrendered a 15-3 run to finish the game.

FAU (9-12, 5-3) scored its last bucket, a layup from forward Jordan McCoy, with 10 seconds to go, giving the Owls their first lead since the first minute of the second half.

The Toppers had a chance for a game-winning shot in the last 10 seconds but junior guard Jamal Crook’s shot was blocked as time expired.

Interim Head Coach Ray Harper said his team’s late mistakes were to blame for the loss.

“We missed some real opportunities,” he told WKU’s Big Red Radio following the game. “We didn’t take advantage of what was open a couple of times and we just kind of got a little out of sync.”

The loss — the first ever for the Toppers in Boca Raton — was WKU’s sixth in the last seven games and their fourth under Harper, who took over after Ken McDonald was fired on Jan. 6.

WKU was out-performed by a career night from FAU guard Shavar Richardson, who scored 25 points after coming into the game averaging five per game.

Richardson scored FAU’s first nine points and had 15 in the first half.

Harper called FAU a “very good defensive team,” and that may have been the difference.

The Owls recorded eight blocks Thursday.

“Give FAU credit,” Harper said. “They did what they needed to do to win the game down the stretch.”

WKU was not without its bright spots, though.

Freshman guard Derrick Gordon and freshman forward George Fant had 16 and 13 points, respectively.

Sophomore forward O’Karo Akamune, making a rare start, had eight points and seven rebounds in what Harper called a “tremendous” effort.

“If we can continue to get that type of effort out of him we’ll be okay,” he said.

The Toppers were also helped by an all-around performance from Crook, who had eight points, seven assists and four rebounds.

Crook had his last shot blocked on a botched final play after WKU was unable to execute the scheme Harper drew up for the last possession.

Harper took the blame for the failings of the team on its last play.

“We didn’t really get what we wanted on that last possession and that’s my fault,” he said. “We drew up something, it just never materialized.”

The Toppers have to rebound from their tough loss quickly.

WKU will take on Florida International at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday in their second road game in Florida in three days.