WKU fails to clinch C-USA East, Monarchs second half holds off Hilltoppers

WKU Hilltoppers head coach Rick Stansbury attempts to keep senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth (11) in high spirits after WKU picks up a loss to Old Dominion on March 5, 2021.

Kaden Gaylord

WKU (17-6), (10-3, C-USA) dropped game one 71-69 to Old Dominion (15-6), (11-4) after clutch shooting from behind the arc and at the free throw line by the Monarchs. 

Despite Old Dominion being dead last in the conference in shooting from behind the arc at 28% per game, the Monarchs made 7-14 three point shots. They also converted 12-20 from the free throw line, with many coming late in the game, to help seal the victory. 

“We just couldn’t make enough plays that second half,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “I thought we tightened up. I thought they played loose. Curry became a one man show. We changed defenses on him a couple times.” 

Senior center Charles Bassey finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks on 8-11 shooting. Sophomore guard Jordan Rawls and senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth both followed with 12 points each. 

Junior Luke Frampton and senior Josh Anderson were dressed for the game after sitting out the last few games.

WKU jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead behind an and-one bucket from senior Taveion Hollingsworth and a three pointer from Jordan Rawls which helped set the tone for the half. 

ODU’s leading scorer Malik Curry picked up his second foul with 13:28 left in the first half. But that didn’t stop the monarchs as they went on an 11-1 run to pull within one. WKU’s offense bent but didn’t break as it took advantage of ODU’s zone defense hitting multiple threes to eventually take a double digit lead. 

WKU would take a 41-30 lead into the locker room. 

Old Dominion didn’t let the game go that easy, as they started on a 17-4 run to take the lead early in the second half. Curry checked back into the game and made his presence felt, scoring 12 of the 17 opening points for the monarchs. 

“We played good in the first half, the difference was in the second half,” Bassey said. “We’re going to come back tomorrow, watch film, see what we didn’t do today and do that in both halves tomorrow.” 

As the pressure and intensity of the game ramped up, the teams traded buckets and the lead for the rest of the half. WKU made 22 of 31 free throws for the game, but with 1:50 left in the game, they missed two big ones that would’ve given them the lead. 

ODU went to the other side and made four shots from the charity strike, giving them a four point advantage. Josh Anderson would get to the line and make one of two for WKU but the Monarchs kept the clutch free throw shooting going. 

The Hilltoppers had a chance to win or send the game into overtime but couldn’t convert. 

“I told Day [Dayvion], after tonight this game is over with. You don’t want to think about this game too much because you know we’re playing for the same thing [one seed] tomorrow,” Hollingsworth said. “We just need to come out with energy, come out the same way we did today but just keep it up.” 

Next up the Hilltoppers will wrap up the regular season Saturday night and honor their seniors. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. and will be available to watch on CBS Sports Network and on CBSSN.

Men’s basketball beat reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3