Hilltoppers approach regular season finale, Stansbury on verge of 100th win

Taveion Hollingsworth drives in and shoots a floater over FIU Panthers defender Petar Krivokanic (23) as Western Kentucky picks up a win over FIU 58 to 91 on Feb. 28, 2021.

Nick Kieser

WKU (17-5), (10-2 C-USA) will host Old Dominion (14-6), (10-2, C-USA) this Friday and Saturday to wrap up the 2021 regular season. The Monarchs enter the weekend one spot behind the Hilltoppers in the Conference USA East Division. 

“People never thought we’d get to this point, but we’ve gotten to this point, and now you can see light at the tunnel,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We are at home and we have an opportunity to compete for a championship and that is a special opportunity.” 

The Hilltoppers will honor their seniors on Saturday in the regular season finale. Seniors Taveion Hollingsworth, Josh Anderson, Carson Williams and Kenny Cooper will be entering into perhaps their final game in Diddle Arena. 

“Me and the guys and coach haven’t really talked about next year yet,” Hollingsworth said about if he’ll sign the blanket waiver to play next year. “We’re just really focused on getting this trophy this year and bringing it back home.”

Additionally, redshirt junior Luke Frampton (undisclosed) and Anderson (ankle) missed this past weekend series against FIU. Stansbury said one player has more of a chance to return than the other this weekend. 

“Not for sure on both right now, and it be 100% honest when I say it,” Stansbury said of Frampton and Anderson. “Both, it’s going to be questionable at this point.” 

Anderson said Thursday he’s anxious to get back on the court with his teammates for the final games this weekend against Old Dominion. 

Stansbury also said he hasn’t spoken with any of his senior athletes about signing the NCAA’s blanket waiver allowing any of his seniors to return next season. 

Prior to the Conference USA Championship the Hilltoppers route to the postseason goes through the Monarchs. 

Heading into the weekend series the Monarchs are 12th in field goals made while WKU is 5th. Additionally, the Hilltoppers are 5th in turnovers while Old Dominion has done a better job controlling the ball being 12th in C-USA in that department. 

“They’ve got good balance,” Stansbury said of Old Dominion. “They’re going to try to grind it out offensively, so we know it’s not going to be easy.” 

Last time out against the Monarchs the Hilltoppers won 68-61 back on Jan. 4, 2020. Williams led the way for WKU scoring 22 points while grabbing 13 rebounds. 

“I know all of their game pretty much. I’ve played against them almost eight times since I’ve been here,” Hollingsworth said. “We’re just going to take on what they’ve been doing this season and just keep learning from that.” 

Senior Malik Curry is one of the Monarchs biggest threats averaging 14 points per game while boasting 32 steals to his account this season. 

Prior to the end of the teleconference with Stansbury he called upon WKU students to come out to this weekend finale to wrap up the regular season. 

“We need students to come out for this weekend,” Stansbury said. “We still have some tickets available for the games this weekend.” 

WKU students can RSVP on the WKU Red Wave app for this weekend series against the Monarchs. 

Stansbury is also on the verge of winning game No. 100 with the Hilltoppers this weekend. 

“The only one that matters to me, and if it makes it 100 that’s great, is the next game and that’s Friday against Old Dominion,” Stansbury said. 

Friday night the Hilltoppers tip off at 7 p.m. and Saturday evening WKU wraps up its season against the Monarchs at 4 p.m. Both games are available to watch on the CBS Sports Network and on the CBSSN Facebook page.

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick.