Shooting woes sink Toppers in Charleston tourney opener

Cole Claybourn

Through the first three games of the season, WKU has had one consistent problem — shooting.

The Toppers shot 27 percent from the field and 26 percent from the three-point range en route to a 65-49 loss to Tulsa in the first round on the Charleston Classic on Thursday.

WKU took 31 three-pointers in the game and made just eight of them, which Head Coach Ken McDonald said “bailed out” Tulsa.

“If you’re making those, they’re great,” he told WKU’s Big Red Radio. “But once you’re getting up in the 20s and taking three-point shots, you’ve got to redirect your attention toward making things work.” 

After taking a 14-10 lead early, WKU switched out of its man-to-man defense and into a 2-3 zone. That’s when Tulsa’s offense found its form, running off an 11-0 run to take a 21-14 lead with eight minutes left in the first half.

WKU finished the half shooting 28 percent while Tulsa ended the half with momentum. After starting the game 0 for 8 from the field, Tulsa finished the first half 13 of 23 shooting.

The second half was all Tulsa as the Golden Hurricane eventually stretched their lead to 23 points en route to the win.

Tulsa did most of its damage in the paint, as 7-footers Kodi Maduka and Steven Idlet combined for 24 points and 14 rebounds. Tulsa scored 32 points in the paint compared to WKU’s 14.

Sophomore forward Kene Anyigbo said WKU was at a disadvantage from the start given the size differential.

“My coaches told me, ‘No easy catches on the post; try to wedge them out as far as you can and make it a little harder for them to score than usual,’” said Anyigbo, who made his third straight start on Thursday.

But Anyigbo got in foul trouble and was limited to just 17 minutes of play.

McDonald said foul trouble and a short bench helped did the Toppers in as well as fatigue.

WKU played its third game without freshman forward George Fant and freshman guard T.J. Price, who are sidelined for a violation of NCAA rules. It was also the final game of junior center Teeng Akol’s suspension.

McDonald said it will be good to get Akol back in the mix to add depth to the bench in Friday’s game against Louisiana State. Tip-off is set for noon.

“Teeng will obviously bring us some minutes,” McDonald said. “It’s a battle down there. Now we get more depth in the post and more depth in the wing with just adding one guy.”