WKU bounces back against FIU to win first C-USA game of the season

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WKU Athletics

WKU redshirt Junior guard, Luke Frampton (14) makes a three-pointer during the game against Old Dominion on Saturday, March 6, 2021 in Diddle Arena.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's basketball reporter

WKU (9-6, 1-1 C-USA) earned its first Conference USA victory of the season after beating Florida International (10-5, 0-2 C-USA) 84-71, for the fifth straight time, in its conference home opener on Saturday.

Five players hit double figures for the Hilltoppers. Senior Josh Anderson led them with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting and three steals. Graduate Camron Justice and redshirt senior Luke Frampton both added 15 points each. Junior Jamarion Sharp had 14 on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting, eight rebounds and three blocks. 

“We’re not an easy team to guard,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “As I’ve said many times, when you make shots, it makes the world go ‘round. This team, we need to continue to make shots.” 

After last week’s blunder against La Tech, the Hilltoppers came out to rectify that defeat. WKU had an all-around effort from just about everybody who touched the floor. The two teams basically mirrored each other in a game of ‘what you can do, I can do better’.

FIU came out the gates with the early lead, but WKU locked in defensively and used its defensive effort to make up the difference. Of the seven total first half turnovers by the Panthers, six were stolen by the Hilltoppers, leading to easy layups or dunks at the basket with WKU outscoring FIU 10-2 in points off turnovers. Anderson was responsible for three of those steals, leading to six of his eight first half points. 

The shooting performance by both teams was exquisite with FIU shooting 47% for the half while WKU shot 55%. Although the Hilltoppers were only 4-of-14 from behind the arc, the ability to finish at the basket and get to the foul line kept them ahead. 

On the other end, the Hilltoppers didn’t commit a foul until there was 4:21 left in the first half and only committed three for the entire half. WKU took a 43-38 lead into the break. 

“We were just moving the ball, sharing the ball, moving it around,” Frampton said. “I think that’s when we’re hardest to guard and it’s when we play our best.”

WKU came out sharp in the second half, starting the half like it did in the first with two threes from Frampton. After poor shooting from the three-point line in the first half, WKU flipped the switch in the second. The Hilltoppers made three pointers on fewer shots than they did in the first while keeping the Panthers in check, holding them to 3-of-11 after hitting six in the first half.

The three-headed backcourt of Justice, Frampton and sophomore Davyion McKnight combined to score 26 of the 41 total points in the second half and all but two of the three pointers.

FIU took more shots than WKU, but the Hilltoppers had one of their most efficient games of the year. Turnovers, free throws and three-point shooting allowed WKU to outscore FIU 41-33 in the second half and close out the game to win 84-71. 

WKU went 14-of-19 from the free throw line while holding FIU to just 4-of-7. WKU won the turnover battle 14-10 and outscored FIU 24-7 in points off turnovers. The Hilltoppers had nine steals and five blocks and outscored the Panthers 14-0 in fast break points. WKU finished with 18 assists.

WKU will play its second game of its three game homestand next week against Rice. That game will be on Thursday night at 8 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on the CBS Network. 

Men’s basketball reporter Kaden Gaylord-Day can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @_KLG3.