WKU completes fourth consecutive sweep, Bassey picks up 14th double-double

WKU Hilltoppers freshman Dayvion McKnight guards FIU Panthers junior Isaiah Banks during the game on March 1, 2021.

Kaden Gaylord

WKU (17-5), (10-2, C-USA) completed the sweep against FIU (9-17), (2-15, C-USA) Monday afternoon winning 71-59 after a 17-point turnaround in the second half. 

“We didn’t create enough of our own energy at the beginning of the game,” sophomore guard Jordan Rawls said. “We came out slow, settling for threes. At halftime in the locker room, we just talked about coming out with energy, winning those first four minutes and that’s what we did.”

The Hilltoppers went without the services of junior transfer Luke Frampton for the third straight game for undisclosed reasons. Senior forward Josh Anderson also missed his second game of the season on Sunday due to an ankle injury.

Junior Charles Bassey led the way with 22 points and 15 rebounds, earning his 14th double-double of the season. Junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Jordan Rawls finished with 14 points and shot 4-of-9 from behind the arc. 

“Any game we play I’m supposed to dominate, that’s what I’m supposed to do to help my team,” Bassey said. “I did it yesterday, I did it today, and I look forward to doing it in our next game.”

It was a tale of two halves, as game two definitely started out more competitive than game one. WKU came out flat with four turnovers, allowing the Panthers to keep it close. Efficient shooting from the Hilltoppers kept them ahead. 

As Bassey checked out of the game, the slump started. WKU went on to turn the ball over more and hit four of its next 12 shots while the Panthers were starting to find their rhythm and hit threes to give them a 33-28 lead into halftime. 

WKU had 10 first-half turnovers, went 2-of-8 from behind the three-point line, and took zero free throws. 

The Hilltoppers must have taken that first half personally because WKU came out with more energy and aggressiveness taking a 39-38 lead three minutes into the half. The teams then traded buckets, and the lead, for the next few minutes before WKU started to pull away. 

The Hilltopper defense buckled down and caused the Panthers to go on a five-minute scoring drought while WKU found its rhythm on the offensive end fueled by Hollingsworth. 

After WKU went up by double digits, you could feel the momentum shift completely in favor of the Hilltoppers. WKU didn’t look back and completed the second half comeback. 

“Proud of our guys fighting back, hanging together — that’s what you got to do, just gotta find a way,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. 

WKU only led by two in rebounds in the first half but flipped the switch in the second, ending up leading on the boards by 15. They outscored FIU 43-26 in the second half. 

The Hilltoppers return home this weekend for the final series of the Conference USA regular season against Old Dominion. Game time on Friday is set for 7 p.m. and Saturday’s is at 4 p.m. Both games will be broadcasted on the CBS Sports Network and on the CBSSN Facebook page.

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