Balanced Attack Leads Hilltoppers Past MTSU, 82-67

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Five players in double figures led the way for WKU Hilltopper Basketball in an 82-67 team win at Middle Tennessee on Saturday.

The Hilltoppers (12-4 overall, 5-2 Conference USA) shot 51% from the field, made 10 3-pointers and sank 24 of 29 free throws in their fourth true road win over the year.

WKU was without head coach Rick Stansbury, who will not coach this weekend as a precaution due to a fever. Stansbury has tested negative for COVID-19 four times this week, including Saturday, but will also miss Sunday’s game out of an abundance of caution.

“Ironically, going into these last few weeks, Coach Stansbury has really been on our team about being more player-driven,” said WKU associate head coach Phil Cunningham, who served as interim head coach Saturday. “We have the mask mandate going on, so you can’t communicate as much from the bench. Coach has been harping on these guys about being player-driven. We really saw it for the first time at Marshall on Sunday, and it just carried over to today.”

That player-driven mindset was evident Saturday with the even distribution in scoring.

Junior center Charles Bassey led the way with 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks for his 10th double-double of the season.

Redshirt senior forward Carson Williams had 15 points and eight rebounds with 9-of-11 shooting from the free-throw stripe, and senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth also added 15 points.

Redshirt junior guard Luke Frampton made 4 of 8 3-pointers and scored 14 points, while sophomore guard Jordan Rawls chipped in 10 points off the bench.

“I think it was just us coming together,” Frampton said. “This has been coming. We’ve been working since August. It’s just being player-driven. That’s the biggest thing, your players leading the team. I think we had a lot of that today.”

WKU trailed 10-7 at the 15:08 mark, but Frampton scored eight straight points himself to give the Tops a 15-10 advantage with 11:34 left in the half.

Frampton’s third 3 made it 34-25 with 3:06 to go, and Williams made two free throws with 13 seconds left for a 38-30 halftime lead.

The Hilltoppers pulled away in the second half with a 13-0 run. Bassey’s putback dunk made it 55-36 with 14:18 remaining and forced a Middle Tennessee timeout.

The Blue Raiders (3-8, 1-4) trimmed their deficit to 13 with 3:17 left, but Bassey hit a dagger 3-pointer from the top of the key.

WKU outrebounded Middle Tennessee 35-21. Dontrell Shuler led the Blue Raiders with 18 points.

The Hilltoppers will conclude the series with Middle Tennessee at 1 p.m. CT Sunday in Murfreesboro. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.

“That was an unexpected situation this morning, so I think everybody was curious to see how the guys were going to respond,” Williams said. “The story the game tells is that everyone responded, came together and fought through the adversity that we were dealt.”