Toppers ‘grow up’ in win over Bowling Green State

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Freshman guard Kevin Kaspar is fouled as he attempts a shot during  Sunday’s game against Bowling Green State. WKU won the game 60-53 for its third win of the season.

Cole Claybourn

The young Toppers showed signs that they’re starting to mature on Sunday.

After building an 18-point lead — WKU’s largest of the season — Bowling Green State eventually clawed its way back into the game, thanks to a total 21 turnovers from WKU and 18.2 percent shooting in the second half.

But the Toppers (3-6) eventually did what they haven’t been able to do much this season — close a game out. 

They earned their third win of the season with a 60-53 victory at home over BGSU.

“I think when you’re in those types of games, being a home team is sometimes a disadvantage because all of a sudden you had a big lead and it’s tied with a couple minutes to go and you feel all kinds of pressure,” Head Coach Ken McDonald said. “You’re looking at the guys and you want to make sure they’re responding and slowing down and maturing and understanding we still have this basketball game.”

McDonald pointed directly to a play made by freshman guard Derrick Gordon that exemplified the progress the team has made so far.

After a missed free throw, Gordon hustled after the ball but was able to avoid getting the ball thrown off of him out of bounds after a BGSU player recovered. 

The Falcons eventually threw the ball out of bounds, and WKU was able to retain possession at a critical point late in the game.

McDonald said that play “was huge.”

“That’s the kind of effort you need that maybe gets you over the top,” he said. 

Senior guard Kahlil McDonald even went as far as to say that particular play “sealed the game” for WKU.

 “I think we’re more than defensive-minded toward the end,” he said. “That just shows you that we’re coming out playing hard for each other.”

The win on the heels of a loss to Murray State in which WKU cut the lead to three points but couldn’t close the game out, eventually losing 70-59 to its in-state rival.

Earlier this year, WKU held a 12-point second half lead on Virginia Commonwealth in their final game of the Charleston Classic, only to watch VCU go on a 10-0 run and eventually win 69-64.

Freshman forward George Fant has chalked previous close losses to a lack of focus. 

But even when WKU wasn’t shooting the ball particularly well on Sunday — only making 4-of-22 second half shots — the Toppers kept their focus. 

BGSU eventually tied the game at 53-53 with just over two minutes to play, but WKU’s defense clamped down and didn’t allow the Falcons to score another point. 

The Toppers then hit seven of their 19 second half free throws in the final two minutes to eventually win the game.

 “It says that you’re starting to get mature now,” Kahlil McDonald said on how the team closed the game out. “We’ve been working hard. I know we’ve got a lot more losses than wins, but we’ve been working real hard in practice and I think it’s starting to pay off.”