Hilltoppers Rally Past FIU for Fourth Straight C-USA Sweep

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Hilltopper Basketball trailed at halftime Monday, but used a dominant 21-2 run in the second half to pull away for a 71-59 win over FIU and a fourth straight series sweep at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Hilltoppers (17-5 overall, 10-2 Conference USA) trailed 43-41 with 16:44 to play, but allowed FIU to make just one of its next 13 shots.

The 21-2 burst made it a 62-45 WKU advantage with 8:48 to play. The win was the Tops’ eighth straight in league play, marking the first time they’ve won eight straight against conference competition since 2009-10.

“I understand there’s a lot of mental things we’re fighting after winning by 30-some yesterday to come back today,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “You can see we won, but that’s been a tough thing for every team across the country. I knew mentally, I knew our guys in the locker room, they weren’t going to lay down. … That’s why you play 40 minutes.”

Junior center Charles Bassey and senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth led the way for the Hilltoppers. Bassey finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, while Hollingsworth poured in 20 points with seven rebounds.

WKU outrebounded FIU 43-28 and shot 51.8% from the field, while holding the Panthers to 35.9% from the floor and 27.3% from 3-point range.

FIU (9-17, 2-15) pulled in front at 26-24 with back-to-back 3s by Bernie Andre, and the Panthers pushed the lead to 33-28 at the break.

They still led 43-41 with 16:44 to go when Hollingsworth and his teammates began to take over.

The senior guard scored 10 straight for WKU, and four free throws later from Bassey extended the lead to 62-45 with 8:48 remaining.

“I’d say we didn’t create enough of our own energy at the start of the game,” sophomore guard Jordan Rawls said. “We came out sluggish and we were settling for 3s. At halftime in the locker room, we just talked about coming out with energy and winning those first four minutes. That’s what we did.”

Rawls added 14 points with four made 3s for the Tops, while freshman guard Dayvion McKnight added nine points, six rebounds and five assists.

Radshad Davis had a double-double for FIU with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

The Hilltoppers conclude the regular season at home against the second-place team in the C-USA East Division, Old Dominion. The series starts at 7 p.m. CT Friday, with both games streaming on CBS Sports Network on Facebook Watch.

“There’s no pressure,” Bassey said. “I don’t look at the standings, but we’ve just got to win every game we play. That’s the mindset, just taking one at a time. We’re looking forward to the next game. We’re just taking it one at a time and making sure we win our games. That’s how we do, just go out there and do what we’re supposed to do and win.”