Harper looking to Crook after Kaspar’s injury

Junior guard Jamal Crook is blocked by University of Arkansas at Little Rock players Ben Dillard, Reggie Fondren and Courtney Jackson while trying to make a shot in the last minutes of a game Jan. 21.

Cole Claybourn

Interim Head Coach Ray Harper said WKU can win without junior guard Jamal Crook scoring.

He said what the Toppers can’t do is win without him being the “ultimate point guard” — finding open players for easy baskets.

That may never be more true than now with his primary backup, freshman guard Kevin Kaspar, sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Crook played 18 minutes in the second half against Arkansas-Little Rock Saturday after Kaspar left at halftime with the injury.

He scored 10 points while dishing out three assists to help spark the Toppers on a late 21-4 run in a 65-53 win.

“The thing I’ve kind of seen Jamal trying to do is be a leader, and I thought he was terrific in the game against Little Rock,” Harper said. “The last seven minutes of the game, Jamal Crook dominated the game.

“He made all the right decisions. He was the guy that kind of orchestrated everything we were doing and that’s what good point guards do.”

During the second half, WKU turned the ball over just three times, with Crook accounting for one of them.

But Crook didn’t want to talk about himself following WKU’s  win on Saturday   — its first after five straight losses. He didn’t even want any credit from his teammates after the game was over.

He deferred the ceremonial game ball to Harper, who, with that win, earned his first win as a head coach at WKU.

“He was real excited about that,” Crook said.

Following the win, Crook praised his teammates and the effort they put in together to earn a much-needed win.

“We’ve been struggling, so it’s always good to get that victory once you’ve been struggling,” he said. “I think that we all just need to keep believing, as we mentioned not too long ago in the locker room before breaking out, just keep believing, trusting in God and everything will work out.”

Crook admitted that he started to feel a little winded in the second half.

He said there were a couple times when he was hoping a timeout would be called but quickly realized he needed to be tougher than that.

But Crook won’t shoulder the entire load in Kaspar’s absence.

Freshman guards Derrick Gordon and T.J. Price, along with senior guard Kahlil McDonald — who played point guard at times last season when the team was saddled by injury — will all see some time running the point, Harper said.

“We’ll mix it up,” he said. “I thought the other day when we took Jamal off the ball and let Kahlil handle it a little bit I thought he did a great job. It’s something he’s done in the past, he played point for us last season.

“Obviously, we’re going to miss Kevin, I thought he was playing terrific, but it’s one of times where someone must step up and get more minutes and play well.”