WKU throttles Charlotte, snapping five-game skid

WKU+fifth-year+senior+guard+Josh+Anderson+dunks+during+the+game+against+the+Rice+Owls+on+Jan.+13%2C+2022.

Alexandra Hendricks

WKU fifth-year senior guard Josh Anderson dunks during the game against the Rice Owls on Jan. 13, 2022.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's Basketball Reporter

WKU (11-11, 3-6 C-USA) destroyed the Charlotte 49ers (11-9, 4-4 C-USA) 78-59 on the road on Thursday night, snapping its five-game losing streak to move back to .500 on the year. 

Graduate Camron Justice led the way for the Hilltoppers with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting with five rebounds. Senior Josh Anderson scored 20 points, grabbing eight rebounds and five steals. Sophomore Dayvion McKnight put up 14 points to go along with five rebounds, five assists and two steals. 

Jahmir Young led the 49ers with 17 points, three assists and three rebounds. 

In a game where WKU shot fewer free throws than its opponent, it was an all-around dominant game it needed to get the season back on track. 

“Coach said in the locker room we’ve been knocked down five straight times and one of those we gotta get up,” Justice said. “I think we set the tone, energy, all night long so i think that’s a testament to us and our spirit and kind of our culture.”

The Hilltoppers came out locked and loaded, jumping out to an early 12-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game with the Charlotte native Jairus Hamilton scoring seven of those first 12 points. 

Charlotte looked like it was playing a game NBA 2K by the way they were turning the ball over, misreading inbound plays, missed dunk opportunities and just throwing the ball out of bounds. Those miscues led to five turnovers before the halfway mark of the first half. 

WKU played like it had something to prove. The Hilltoppers locked up on defense and buried shots on the other end at a high rate, making nine of their first 13 shots while knocking down four of their first six from behind the arc that helped create a double digit lead right off the bat.  

Six out of the seven Hilltoppers to see the court made it onto the scoreboard in the first half with an all-around scoring effort that just broke down the 49ers. WKU didn’t make a bucket in three out of the last four minutes and still took a 24-point lead into the locker room up 43-19. 

If Charlotte was going down, it wasn’t going down without a fight. The Niners went on a 8-0 run in the first five minutes to start the half and forced the Hilltoppers big man Jamarion Sharp into his fourth foul of the game. 

Anderson decided he wasn’t going to allow the 49ers to get anywhere close to making a comeback, turning on his takeover mode to score 10 straight points for the Hilltoppers, which was all of their second half points at the time and all within two minutes. 

“A couple games we kind of got up big and that team ended up coming back and we ended up losing so we just didn’t want to have that feeling again, we didn’t want to go through that again,” Anderson said. “So [we] just [came] together as a team and finished the game.”

Charlotte tried getting the crowd back into the game after going on another 8-0 run, capitalizing off of Sharp not being in the game. The 49ers grabbed seven of their eight offensive rebounds, halfway through the second half, which got them within a 12-point distance. 

Young checked out of the game for Charlotte, and WKU seized complete control with clutch three-point shooting which helped push the lead back up to 21. The stretch was highlighted by a four-point play from Justice. 

It was all she wrote from that point, as the Hilltoppers were getting whatever look they wanted, whether it be from the perimeter or Dayvion McKnight backing his man down into the paint. The Hilltoppers dominated in every aspect of the game to get the win. 

“The biggest thing is you never quit believing and keep working. It’s easy to get punched in the nose and mouth, five times, and lay down,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Our guys didn’t lay down, and we’re not going to lay down. We have good people, good young men.”

WKU shot 56% (31-of-55) for the game while shooting 50% (9-of-18) from behind the arc. The Hilltoppers forced 13 turnovers, including seven steals while only turning it over eight times. 

WKU will head to Norfolk, Va., to take on Old Dominion on Saturday. That matchup is set to take tip-off at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. 

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