WKU gets revenge on FAU for third win in a row

Graduate+guard+Camron+Justice+drives+to+the+paint+against+MTSU+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.%2C+29.+WKU+lost+93-85.+

Tucker Covey

Graduate guard Camron Justice drives to the paint against MTSU on Saturday, Jan., 29. WKU lost 93-85.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's Basketball Reporter

WKU (13-11, 5-6 C-USA) got its revenge against FAU (15-10, 8-4 C-USA), coming out on top with a 76-69 win for its third in a row. 

WKU graduate Camron Justice led with 19 points, four assists and five rebounds. Sophomore Dayvion McKnight scored 18 points with four assists. Junior big man Jamarion Sharp finished with 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting, nine rebounds and seven blocks. 

“So many guys are just doing it all,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Toughness and effort when they’re fatigued. Everybody can do it when you’re fresh, but can you do it when you get tired? That’s our challenge for this team. That was my challenge at halftime and we battled. They deserve all the credit, they kept fighting, they kept coming. I got a bunch of warriors there.”

It seemed like every point of emphasis taken from the first game, the Hilltoppers did a 180 to win this game. 

The big question coming into the game was if WKU would be able to play efficiently with such a small bench with injuries to the starting lineup. Despite missing almost the entire second half against Old Dominion, redshirt senior Luke Frampton started in tonight’s game with a padded knee sleeve on, and it didn’t seem to bother him much. 

It was a defense-centered first half. WKU had an early lead, but FAU took control, going on a 12-2 run over a four-minute period at the halfway mark of the first half. During that time, WKU shot 1-of-11. Luckily for the Hilltoppers, the Owls went on a scoring drought, keeping the game within two possessions. 

With 6:40 left in the first half, Frampton signaled to the sideline and went to the locker room after playing 11 minutes. He ended up coming back into the game, but only played four minutes in the second half. 

WKU was down seven with three minutes left in the half before going on an 8-0 run in a minute and half to take back the lead it lost so early in the half. 

The Hilltoppers’ defense stifled down, holding the Owls to only two points in the last 4:25 of the first half while forcing four turnovers that helped WKU take a 30-27 lead into the break. Both teams shot 39% for the half, but FAU had a plus-12 advantage from behind the arc. WKU forced 11 first-half turnovers. 

“We were just locking in on defense,” McKnight said. “We knew they shoot threes, and they shoot a lot of them, so we just had to dial in and make them go in the paint and that’s not what they wanted.”

WKU started the second half with the momentum it had at the end of the first, scoring the first five points of the half. After going 1-of-6 in the first half, Justice started out the second hitting two threes. 

WKU was able to get in the paint and get rebounds with FAU’s big man out of the game, leading to fast breaks that led to open shots as the Hilltoppers started the half 6-of-7 from the field.

The Owls’ freshman Vladislav Goldin completely dominated the matchup between him and Sharp in the first meeting. This time Sharp outplayed him in every aspect of the game, putting up better numbers in every statistical category. 

“Ever since that game I told myself, ‘I can’t wait to play them again because this wasn’t my best game. I’m going to show them my best game,’ and I did that tonight,” Sharp said. 

WKU’s shooting in the second half was tremendously better than the first, converting contested shots at the rim and hitting a lot more outside shots. The Owls didn’t give up, forcing WKU to turn the ball over four times in under three minutes. 

With less than two minutes left in the game, WKU was up four before Justice went to the free throw line and knocked down both shots to put them up six. WKU didn’t hit a field goal for the last three minutes of the game but clutch free-throw shooting allowed them to keep the lead and take the win. 

WKU shot 16-of-19 from the free-throw line, one of its best performances of the season. The Hilltoppers won the turnover battle 11-16, and the points off turnover battle 11-7. Both teams shot 32% from behind the arc, but WKU hit five of its six in the second half and was more efficient overall, shooting 48% to the Owls 42%. 

WKU will hit the road to take on Texas San Antonio Saturday at 3 p.m. That game will be broadcast on CUSA.TV. 

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