Hilltoppers play their hearts out for hometown, find victory on day of crisis

WKU+Cheerleaders+lead+the+Women%E2%80%99s+Basketball+Team+out+of+the+tunnel+before+their+match+up+against+the+Purdue+University+Boilermakers+in+Diddle+Arena+on+Nov.+10%2C+2021.

Marshall C. Canupp

WKU Cheerleaders lead the Women’s Basketball Team out of the tunnel before their match up against the Purdue University Boilermakers in Diddle Arena on Nov. 10, 2021.

Jake Moore, Content Manager

The Hilltoppers (6-4) ran away with a 71-48 victory against the Ole Miss Rebels (6-3) at Holiday Hoopsgiving in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday night, but the program’s hearts and minds were set on Bowling Green.

The city was struck by a powerful tornado in the early morning hours on Saturday, ripping through town and narrowly missing WKU’s campus. The event weighed heavily on the players’ hearts.

“Let’s all of us keep this in perspective,” head coach Rick Stansbury told the media after the game. “It was a challenge for a lot of people from about four o’clock this morning when we [started to] find out what was going on back in Bowling Green. I can promise you our players have talked about it off and on all day, same way as all of us coaches.”

Before the game, the program shared a video on social media that featured Stansbury extending a message to the WKU fan base surrounded by his team.

“Our team is in Atlanta getting ready to play tonight, but our thoughts and prayers are with everyone back in the Bowling Green community,” Stansbury said.

Additionally, the team’s Twitter account refrained from live tweeting during the contest, keeping folks’ timelines clear so those reaching out for help would be able to find it.

In basketball terms, it was a nice win for the program. The Hilltoppers were out front the entire night, entering half time with a 34-19 lead, and were led by great performances from Jairus Hamilton, Jamarion Sharp and Josh Anderson. 

“As great as this win is, as excited as we all are, again our thoughts and our prayers, our hearts are still back in Bowling Green,” Stansbury said. “All those people who’ve lost loved ones, all those people who’ve lost property, businesses, at the end of the day this is still a game. We’ve all got to keep that in perspective.”

Hamilton recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 boards, Sharp put up 16 points and six blocks and Anderson chipped in 13 points off the bench.

“Before the game started I said I’d dedicate every last one of my points to the families and people of Bowling Green,” Sharp said. 

WKU shot 50.8% from the field while holding its SEC opponent to just 27.4% shooting. The Hilltoppers went 7-19 from deep compared to Ole Miss’ mark of 7-27. 

More important than adding another number to the win column, the victory is something Bowling Green residents can hold on to in such a dark time.

“Hopefully some of those people had a chance to watch the game, hopefully it just gave them a good feeling and excitement tonight,” Stansbury said. “Something else to talk about.”

The Hilltoppers return to a healing Bowling Green to face Centre College on Tuesday, Dec. 14. 

“We’re excited to get back home, see if there’s anything we can do, anything our team can help people with,” Stansbury said. “Help clean up a yard or business, we’re gonna be willing and free to do that.”

Content Manager Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.