WKU drops third consecutive game after its 18-point comeback attempt falls short

North+Texas+Mean+Green%E2%80%99s+senior+guard+Madrez+McBride++%281%29+leaps+for+a+three-pointer+against+the+WKU+Hilltoppers+on+the+afternoon+of+Saturday%2C+Jan.+15+2022%2C+in+Diddle+Arena.+North+Texas+won+the+match+65-60.

Arthur Trickett-Wile

North Texas Mean Green’s senior guard Madrez McBride (1) leaps for a three-pointer against the WKU Hilltoppers on the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 15 2022, in Diddle Arena. North Texas won the match 65-60.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's Basketball Reporter

WKU (10-9, 2-4 C-USA) dropped its third straight game, 86-83, and its first loss to the FIU Panthers (12-7, 2-4 C-USA) since 2016 off a game winning three-pointer with 12.6 seconds left. 

Senior Josh Anderson led the Hilltoppers with 23 points and four steals on 6-of-11 shooting. Sophomore Dayvion McKnight had 17 points, six assists and four rebounds. Redshirt junior Tevin Brewer led the Panthers with 23 points and eight assists. Senior Eric Lovett followed with 20 points and eight rebounds. 

“There’s no moral victories. We didn’t win the game,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “I feel different than I felt Thursday night. I felt like we came off that court and left everything on the court and tried to overcome a team who shot the heck out of [the ball].”

FIU remembered what happened in Diddle Arena earlier this season and got off to a hot start. The Panthers scored the first 10 points of the game and forced the Hilltoppers to call an early timeout. WKU started 0-of-5 from the field and 0-of-4 from behind the arc. 

After the timeout, the Hilltoppers scored 11 of the next 18 points to bring itself within two possessions. The Panthers didn’t let the comeback faze them as they continued to spread the ball around, break down the 2-3 zone and drain their shots.

Down by 18 points with less than six minutes in the half, WKU didn’t let the 18-point hole take its focus out of the game. Anderson wasn’t going down without a fight, scoring 14 points in 12 minutes, on 5-of-8 shooting to help bring the Hilltoppers within four points. 

FIU scored half of its first half points from behind the arc, making seven threes while keeping WKU on its toes. The Hilltoppers went on a 18-4 run to have a little momentum going into halftime down 42-38. 

“It’s hard to beat anybody when they make 16 threes like that,” senior Luke Frampton said. “We came out and got down pretty early. We fought back all game, we just couldn’t make enough plays at the end.” 

The second half started similarly to the first, WKU couldn’t hit a shot while FIU separated itself on the scoreboard. Once the Hilltoppers got settled in, they went to their ole reliable, drawing fouls to get to the free throw line. 

WKU shot seven free throws in the first half while halfway through the second they shot 13. The Hilltoppers kept getting to the line and the Panthers were able to keep hitting their shots from behind the arc, holding on to that lead. 

With under five minutes left, FIU was up by eight before graduate Camron Justice hit a three to bring it down to a five-point game. Justice hit another three to bring it down to two points on the next possession. With 2:05 left, senior Jairus Hamilton hit a three that gave WKU its first lead of the day. 

The Panthers came back and hit its 15th three of the game to take the lead back. With less than a minute left, FIU fouled McKnight, sending him to the free throw line to tie the game. 

The Panthers came back down and hit a three from the corner for the game winner.The Hilltoppers had a chance to tie but missed at the buzzer. 

“They just had a lot of confidence playing with the home crowd,” Anderson said. “So they were just putting up shots and they were going in.” 

FIU hit 16 threes to WKU’s eight. The Hilltoppers were outrebounded 39-26. The Panthers had 21 second-chance points. 

The Hilltoppers will be back at home Thursday night against Alabama-Birmingham. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.

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