Cold shooting in second half extends WKU’s losing streak to four games

Cole Claybourn

Not many things went right for WKU on Wednesday.

After a five-point Charleston Classic loss to VCU three days before, the Toppers (1-5) came back and lost to the Rams by 23, 68-45, at home in front of a crowd of 3,285.

WKU scored just one field goal in the final 13 minutes.

“I don’t know who you can point to and say played a very effective game for us, and that’s a problem,” Head Coach Ken McDonald said. “We’ve got to have a lot more guys on the positive side.”

VCU led by as many as seven in the first half but WKU ended the half with a steal by freshman forward George Fant, who took it coast-to-coast and scored to cut the deficit to four at halftime.

But that momentum was erased when the second half started. Freshman guard Kevin Kaspar turned the ball over nearly as soon as it was inbounded, and freshman guard T.J. Price then turned the ball over at midcourt, which led to a Juvonte Reddic dunk.

WKU cut the lead to two, re-engaging the crowed at Diddle Arena, but VCU went on a 10-2 run that started with Fant getting his shot blocked.

VCU’s Rob Brandenburg then hit a 3-pointer, followed by a Darius Theus layup. Bradford Burgess then hit a 3-pointer which was followed by a Briante Weber layup.

WKU then went on an 8-0 run of its own to cut the lead back to two, 43-41, after Price hit a three-pointer.

But from there, it was all downhill for WKU.

The Toppers went on a seven minute scoring drought and nine-minute span of just three points. WKU made just one field goal in the final 12:47 — a jump shot from senior guard Kahlil McDonald.

Freshman guard Derrick Gordon led WKU in scoring with 12 points and pulled down four rebounds. He was the only player on WKU in double figures. Freshman forward George Fant led the Toppers in rebounding with six.

WKU finished shooting 41 percent from the floor.

VCU had four players in double figures, led by Burgess’ 16 points. After shooting 37 percent in the first half, the Rams shot 64 percent in the second half to finish at 50 percent for the game.

They outscored WKU in the post 34-14 and had 28 points off 22 WKU turnovers.

Gordon said VCU didn’t change anything from the last time the two teams met. He said it boiled down to a “lack of focus” for WKU — something he and Fant said several times after the game.

“We knew they were going to pressure full court,” he said. “We knew they were going to have traps coming. It just comes back to the lack of focus. We had a couple turnovers, key turnovers that really was the game changer. It just really hurt us a lot.”

McDonald said he didn’t see the progression from the previous game to Wednesday’s game. He said a big part of that was that the team wasn’t focused in practice on Tuesday.

“That can never waiver if you’re going to be a good basketball team,” McDonald said. “We had a day off and we come back and have a practice and you’ve got to be locked and loaded. You should be motivated to get a win against a good basketball team that just beat you.”

Fant and Gordon were noticeably dejected after the game.

For them and many of the other freshmen, losing is a foreign concept.

Fant said the team’s current four-game losing streak is a mix of both discouragement and motivation.

Gordon took it one step farther and said it’s a “sick feeling.”

Even though the team is losing, Gordon and Fant both were quick to shoot down that notion as an excuse for their early season struggles.

“We can’t say, ‘It’s freshmen,'” Gordon said. “We’re just not playing well.”

The Toppers will practice again tomorrow on Thanksgiving and eat a team meal as they prepare for Southeastern Louisiana at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“The timing of tomorrow is a good thing,” McDonald said. “We’re going to be thankful for being in this program. Tomorrow we’re going to get to work, right away, bright and early. We’ll get a workout in and make sure we’re focused.

“If we’re not focused. We’ll come back and workout again. That’s the way it’s gotta be.”