LSU hands WKU second straight Charleston Classic loss

Cole Claybourn

The term “tale of two halves” is rather cliche, but there’s perhaps no better term that fits WKU’s loss to Louisiana State on Friday.

After trailing by just two at halftime, the Toppers watched LSU outscore them 36-19 in the second half on their way to a 76-57 loss — WKU’s second in two days at the Charleston Classic.

“They turned the pressure up,” Head Coach Ken McDonald told WKU’s Big Red Radio. “Give LSU credit because they turned the heat up. They got in the passing lanes. What we needed to do was handle that pressure.”

After an inauspicious start that included one technical foul call on WKU’s bench before the game even started and another 21 second in on McDonald, WKU (1-3) eventually responded and went into halftime down two, 40-38.

A large part of that was WKU’s 14 of 14 free throw shooting.

But LSU opened the second half on a 9-0 run, which set the tone for the rest of the half.

Midway through the second half, WKU was just 3 of 15 shooting while LSU had caught fire and stretched the lead to 58-45.

LSU then ran off a 13-0 run to take a 64-45 lead with 7:58 left to play.

The Tigers added a three-point play by Malcom White and led by as many as 22 with 7:54 left to play and maintained their double-digit lead the rest of the game.

“First half I think we had them and then the second half, we gave up too many rebounds,” said freshman guard Kevin Kaspar, who led WKU with 15 points. “On the offense, we had too many turnovers. They had a lot of second chance points and put up a lot of ‘and-ones.'”

After shooting 100 percent from the free throw line in the first half, the Toppers at one point missed six straight free throws.

The offensive struggles affected the defense as well, McDonald said.

“That separation was allowed where we lost confidence,” he said. “I thought we got it back a little and fought hard in the second half. They man-handled us a little bit and we got tired. That’s stuff we have to get better at.”

WKU shot 32.7 percent from the field — the Toppers’ highest percentage of the season — but allowed LSU to connect on 41.3 percent of its shots and turned the ball over 20 times.

Justin Hamilton led LSU with 18 points while last year’s Kentucky Mr. Basketball, Anthony Hickey, scored 17 points and recorded seven rebounds and four assists for the Tigers.

Junior center Teeng Akol made his first appearance of the season after serving a three-game suspension for violation of team rules. He three points and five rebounds in his debut.

His insertion into the lineup allowed freshman forward Nigel Snipes to play the wing position, a more natural position for him, as opposed to the post, where he had played some in Akol’s absence.

Snipes responded by scoring 13 points, including one three-pointer, in 27 minutes of play. He was 6 of 6 from the free throw line.

“His shot is coming, and he’s becoming more confident in how to score baskets on the perimeter,” McDonald said of Snipes.

WKU will play the loser of either Georgia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth — the Toppers’ opponent at home next Wednesday — at 11 a.m. Sunday in their last game of the Charleston Classic.

McDonald said it doesn’t matter who the Toppers face next, and that either way he’ll prepare for two separate attacks. 

“You get two different styles of play, and we just want to come out of here with a win,” he said. “We’ll try to play hard and put ourselves in position. Tonight, we put ourselves in position to win a game, and then we let it get away.”