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Hilltoppers collect huge win at Louisiana Tech

Forward+Tyrone+Marshall+Jr.+%2824%29+and+the+bench++celebrate+guard+Tyler+Olden%E2%80%99s+first+three-pointer+this+season+during+a+home+game+against+MTSU+in+the+Diddle+arena+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+3.+
Dominic Di Palermo
Forward Tyrone Marshall Jr. (24) and the bench celebrate guard Tyler Olden’s first three-pointer this season during a home game against MTSU in the Diddle arena on Saturday, Feb. 3.

WKU mens basketball sent the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs to the pound Wednesday, with a convincing 81-76 win over the conference leader. 

The two most prolific offenses in Conference-USA clashed for the first time this season and the Hilltoppers made the Bulldogs look like nothing more than a pup.

This marks only the second conference loss that LA Tech has suffered this year, with the first coming against the Sam Houston Bearkats on Jan. 6.

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The two teams came into the game sitting among the top of Conference-USA in rebound statistics, with the Bulldogs only 0.1 rebound behind the Hilltoppers in first. However, when it came down to it, Western Kentucky’s ability to bring down the boards was a driving factor in their win.

“I thought our guys did a really good job on the backboard.” Head Coach Steve lutz said. “They’re the number one offensive rebounding team in the league. For us to out-rebound them and have 13 offensive rebounds was obviously key to us winning the game.”

First Half

In true WKU fashion, the Hilltopper defense started poorly against the second-best offense in C-USA. After a difficult first six minutes of gameplay, WKU found themselves on the wrong end of a 21-9 score.

Not only were the Bulldogs scoring big from long range, they were doing it incredibly efficiently as well. Louisiana Tech found themselves sitting at 7-11 from the field, and 4-7 from beyond the three-point line. 

On the other side of the ball, the Hilltoppers opened their campaign with a shocking 4-18 performance from the field. 

It wasn’t until just after the halfway point in the half that the tides began to shift. 

Thanks in part to a 25-9 run led by WKU guard Enoch Kalambay, the Hilltoppers found themselves with a 40-37 lead heading into the locker room. 

It seemed obvious that WKU had been doing their homework, as they successfully eliminated the threats. Isaiah Crawford, the second-highest season scorer in C-USA, and Daniel Batcho, the fourth-highest season scorer in the conference combined for six points through the first 20 minutes

WKU’s Kalambay had nine points in his 12 minutes on the court, as well as five rebounds. The guard was also a perfect 4-4 from the charity stripe.

Dravon Mangum was the ‘Man on Fire’ for La Tech through his 20 minutes on the court. The forward’s 14 points were the most points he has had since March 2023.

Team First Half Statistics: 

WKU: 13-31 FG, 2-6 3FG, 12-13 FT | 23 Rebounds: 17 Defensive, six Offensive.

LA TECH: 13-32 FG, 5-19 3FG, 6-9 FT | 15 Rebounds: 12 Defensive, three Offensive.

Second Half

The Hilltoppers picked up right where they left off in the first half, as they opened up with a 6-0 run. 

However, LA Tech wouldn’t go out without a dogfight. The Bulldog offense followed suit with their very own 9-3 run, bringing the game within three with just over 12 minutes to play. 

However, no run would be enough for the Bulldogs as the teams mirrored each other, and the Hilltoppers came away with a three-point victory, proving that you can teach old dogs new tricks.

LA Tech’s Magnum and Jordan Crawford both shared career-high games with 23 and 22 points respectively. 

On the other hand, the Hilltoppers struck defensive gold when it came to locking up Batcho. After fouling out with under a minute left, the 6-11 Frenchman took his trip to the bench with only six points to his name. 

“I thought our guys did a good job collectively on Batcho.” Lutz said.

The Hilltoppers were once again led by Don McHenry. The guard’s 18 points were accompanied by six rebounds, three assists, and two steals while shooting 7-13 from the field.

The Hilltoppers remain on the road as they travel to Jacksonville State to take on the Gamecocks Saturday, Feb. 10 at 4 pm CT.

Full Game Statistics:

WKU: 27-55 FG, 4-13 3FG, 23-28 FT | 41 Rebounds: 28 Defensive, 13 Offensive.

LA Tech: 26-63 FG, 7-29 3FG, 17-27 FT | 33 Rebounds: 20 Defensive, 13 Offensive.

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