For the first time since 2013, WKU Hilltopper Basketball will play for a championship.
The third-seeded Hilltoppers (24-9) survived a 57-49 semifinal slugfest against No. 2 seed Old Dominion on Friday, advancing to the Conference USA Basketball Championship final at the Ford Center at The Star.
WKU will face fourth-seeded Marshall at 7:30 p.m. CTSaturday in the championship game on CBS Sports Network.
The Hilltoppers are looking to secure their 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance, as well as head coach Rick Stansbury’s seventh NCAA tourney berth. It would be Stansbury’s 12th postseason appearance in his 16 seasons as a head coach.
Old Dominion (25-7) led for most of the first half, but WKU went on a 17-2 run, including 10 straight points, to open a 28-18 advantage at the 1:58 mark of the first half.
Redshirt junior guard Lamonte Bearden knocked down the Hilltoppers’ first 3 of the game at the horn, pushing WKU’s halftime lead to 31-22.
The Monarchs got back in front 41-40 with 9:25 left, but WKU answered with two free throws from freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth and a 3-pointer from senior forward Justin Johnson.
Johnson saved his biggest shot for the 1:41 mark, knocking down a contested 3-pointer as the shot clock expired that made it 54-46 and proved to be the dagger.
Johnson finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, notching his 37th double-double and becoming the fifth player in WKU history with 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.
Hollingsworth added 11 points, and Bearden had seven points and four assists. Senior guard Darius Thompson chipped in six points and six assists, and senior forward Dwight Coleby had five points and seven rebounds.