WKU sweeps season series with Marshall, earns No. 2 seed in East Division of the C-USA Tournament

Center+Jamarion+Sharp+celebrates+after+the+Hilltoppers+victory+over+the+Marshall+Herd+on+Saturday%2C+March+5.+WKU+won+69-78.

Tucker Covey

Center Jamarion Sharp celebrates after the Hilltoppers victory over the Marshall Herd on Saturday, March 5. WKU won 69-78.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's Basketball Reporter

WKU (19-12, 11-7 C-USA) defeated Marshall (11-20, 4-14 C-USA) 78-69, clinching the No. 2 seed in the East Division and swept the season series with Marshall. With the win, WKU gets a double-bye in the C-USA Tournament. 

“The biggest key was just playing our game,” Fifth-year senior Josh Anderson said. “Our mentality was just by any means we have to go out and get the dub so we can get that bye next week. It’s pretty big with our rotation going in with six or seven guys playing most of the minutes so having that bye for the first game is big.” 

With his start today, Josh Anderson set a new record for most games played in a WKU uniform, after playing his 142nd game. 

Senior Jairus Hamilton returned to the court halfway through the first half after being away with a patella injury since Feb. 19 against Old Dominion. 

“I definitely feel a whole lot better,” Hamilton said. “The knee feels great. It just feels great to be back out there with my teammates, they did a great job at making me look well today. I just appreciate it. It’s going to keep us moving forward.”

Hamilton led the way with 16 points and six rebounds in his return. Sophomore Dayvion McKnight scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and had four assists. Junior Jamarion Sharp finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks. Anderson had 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. 

For the first five minutes of the game, both teams struggled to get the ball in the net. The two teams combined to start 4-of-18 from the field with Anderson either scoring or assisting on the two baskets for WKU. 

WKU seemed to gain some momentum after a block plus an alley-oop dunk from Sharp got Diddle on its feet and into the game. Then WKU went on a 10-2 run captained by Hamilton scoring half. With Luke Frampton also getting into the fold, he and Hamilton scored 11 of WKU’s 13 points in a four-minute span. 

Marshall struggled towards the end of the half while WKU finished it on a 6-0 run, highlighted by a putback dunk by Sharp with six seconds left, giving WKU a double-digit lead, 39-28, going into halftime. 

WKU came out in the second half flat footed, starting 2-of-11 while Marshall went on a 11-4 run to bring the deficit within two possessions. Marshall would make it a two-point game before WKU went on a 7-0 run to push the lead back up near double digits. 

If there’s one part of Marshall’s offense that they rely on, it’s junior Taevion Kinsey getting his buckets. The Hilltopper defense threw him off his game as he played on the free throw line against WKU’s zone. The size of Sharp startled him and forced him to shoot bad shots and turn the ball over. 

WKU went on a 12-2 run over a five-minute span while Marshall struggled to get the ball through the hoop. The Herd were down by eight with two minutes left when Anderson stole the ball and dunked it. A couple plays later, Anderson stole it again and gave it to Hamilton to finish it off with a dunk, putting WKU up 10 with a minute left to ice the game. 

WKU’s final 11 points were scored or assisted on by Josh Anderson. 

WKU forced 15 turnovers while only having five and outscored Marshall 20-4 in points off turnovers. Sharp had seven blocks. WKU had 13 steals and 27 fast break points. 

“Ten games ago, [nobody gave them] a chance to do what they’ve done,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “They deserve all the credit. There’s not a lot of teams, a lot of players that could have gotten off the mat after some tough losses, but we kept it all in perspective and the players controlled what they were in charge of controlling and since then we’ve won nine out of 10 and the one we dropped was without two starters. Awfully proud of those guys and they should be proud of each other for what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished.”

With the win, WKU now gets a double-bye in the C-USA Tournament and will play the winner of the first round matchup. WKU’s game will be Thursday at 6 p.m in Frisco, Texas. The game will be broadcast on Stadium. 

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