WKU wins fifth consecutive game on Valentine’s Day

Sophomore+guard+Dayvion+McKnight+goes+for+a+2+pointer+against+MTSU+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.%2C+29.+WKU+lost+93-85.+

Tucker Covey

Sophomore guard Dayvion McKnight goes for a 2 pointer against MTSU on Saturday, Jan., 29. WKU lost 93-85.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's Basketball Reporter

WKU (15-11, 7-6 C-USA) pulled ahead late against Southern Mississippi (6-18, 1-10 C-USA) on Valentine’s day, winning 87-77 and extending its win streak to five games. 

WKU sophomore Dayvion McKnight led the way with 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Graduate Camron Justice finished with 24 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals. Senior Luke Frampton scored 13 points to go along with four assists and two steals.  

“Any time you win on the road, it’s not easy,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “In particular, that’s our fourth road game in the last five games. That’s four out of five on the road. These guys deserve a lot of credit. They’re fighting, they’re playing well and we’re doing it with a short bench.”

WKU came out the gates looking to overwhelm a struggling Southern Miss team, starting on a 9-0 run for the first four minutes of game time before the Golden Eagles put a point on the board. 

After struggling last game, it was the Justice and Sharp show for the first seven minutes of the night. They were the only two Hilltoppers to get on the scoreboard, scoring a combined 17 points, until Dayvion McKnight hit a free throw at the 13:30 mark. 

Although the Hilltoppers were shooting at a high rate, the Golden Eagles were hitting even a higher rate. Isaih Moore scored 12 points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked one shot in 12 minutes of play when he only averaged 10 points per game. 

WKU went on a huge drought, not hitting a field goal in over four minutes but remained locked defensively. USM would tie the game multiple times but was unable to take the lead. McKnight ended the long drought with a lay-in which was followed by senior Josh Anderson’s three pointer that caused the Golden Eagles to call a timeout.

WKU closed the half on a 8-0 run to take a 46-38 lead into the locker room. 

“These last few games, we’ve been really locked in offensively and defensively so it was just a matter of time until other things started clicking,” McKnight said.

Both teams were even for the first four minutes of the second half, each scoring nine points. The difference was Frampton hitting back-to-back threes that forced USM to call timeout, keeping WKU from gaining all the momentum. 

USM took advantage of the open paint with Sharp off the court, creating second chance opportunities and pick and rolls leading to dunks that saw them go 6-of-7 and brought them within one possession. 

“They made that run solely based off of offensive rebounds so we came together,” Justice said.  “We knew they were going to scrap, and they were going to fight. So it was just one of those things where we had to keep fighting, and at the end of the day, we separated ourselves enough to get the win.” 

WKU showed its poise just like every other instance in this game, making clutch shots to never allow USM to take the lead. With under five minutes to go in the game, WKU went on a 7-0 run over a two-minute span, extending the lead to double digits. WKU went on to put the game away and take the win. 

WKU shot 50% from the field and 52% from behind the arc. The Hilltoppers shot 20-of-23 from the free throw line while holding USM to just 10 attempts. Ball control has been a plus for the Hilltoppers, having under 10 turnovers once again while creating 13 USM turnovers. 

WKU will return home for a Thursday night matchup against Charlotte inside Diddle Arena at 7 p.m.

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