Tops Fall to #24 Florida Atlantic in Front of Packed Diddle Arena

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – With its best crowd of the season thus far, WKU Hilltopper Basketball faced a freshly #24 ranked Florida Atlantic team on Monday night. After staying with the Owls for the first 25 minutes of the game, the final 15 minutes got out of hand and the Hilltoppers were defeated 76-62 in front of 5,206 fans, including a massive student crowd.

“Give FAU credit,” said interim head coach Phil Cunningham. Head coach Rick Stansbury missed Monday night’s game due to an ongoing health issue. “They came into a hostile environment and played really well. They’re an experienced team, they’re tough and physical and they made shots when they needed to make them. All the credit goes to them. They played well. The second credit goes to our fans and this crowd tonight. This was a great crowd in here tonight. Our students came out, they told me this is the biggest student crowd we’ve had in 2-3 years. It was awesome to see them and our other fans, everybody was out there. It was a great atmosphere.”

“It’s always great,” said Luke Frampton. “You know, you love packing out Diddle. It’s a special place to play in. It’s definitely tough for opponents to come in here and play, especially when we have an environment like that. So, you know, I was just trying to get people loud and try to get in the opposing team’s head a little bit, but they kept composed and made plays when they needed to.”

Florida Atlantic scored the first eight points of the game, but the Hilltoppers scored 16 of the next 20, taking a 16-12 lead by the 12:27 mark.

WKU used a 7-0 run to extend its lead further, but the Owls chipped away at their deficit from the 3-point line, sinking one after another. They eventually took a 30-29 lead with just over two minutes to play, and held that one-point lead into half time.

#24 Florida Atlantic led the Hilltoppers 34-33 at the break. Frampton came out firing, shooting 4 for 4 in the first half including 3 of 3 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Starting the second half, it was a dog fight. Both teams stayed within two points of each other for the first five minutes of the game. It was all tied up at 48-all at the 15:04 mark, thanks to a Jamarion Sharp poster dunk.

From there, Florida Atlantic outscored WKU 15-4 over the next 10 minutes, taking a full-blown lead of 69-55 with 6:13 on the clock.

In the final 13 minutes, the Tops only had four made field goals, resulting in the 76-62 loss.

“Everybody’s down right now,” Cunningham said. “Obviously our players and coaches are down, the fans are down, the students are down, we all should be. That’s part of this. It’s a sport, we’re trying to win, we all should be down, starting with us. But like we told our team, we had a bad 15 minutes. It’s tied with 15 minutes to go in the game. They’re a legit top-25 team… They’re legit. After playing them and studying them, they’re legit top-25. They play so well together and they’re tough and physical, and they’re confident right now. But with 15 minutes to go, we’re tied and we had a bad 15 minutes. We told our guys that we’re not going to let those 15 minutes define what’s happened in the last month, almost a month now. Our guys have been terrific through this process, and let’s be real we had a bad 15 minutes in the second half, particularly offensively, and the game got away from us.”

The Hilltoppers’ offense was lacking in the second half. After shooting 50% from the arc in the first period, WKU shot just 30% from the 3-point line, making only three shots, following the break.

WKU was outrebounded by the Owls 43-25 as Florida Atlantic also outscored the Tops in the paint 24-12.

The Hilltoppers are now 34-105 against ranked opponents, including a 14-33 mark at home.

WKU was led in scoring by Dayvion McKnight for the fourth time in the last five games. The junior guard scored 15 points and pulled down a massive nine rebounds. He added two assists and two steals.

WKU will travel for a one-off road game to Louisiana Tech in a Thursday night league match-up. The 8 p.m. CT game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.