WKU falls to Charlotte in OT, 75-71

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Hilltopper Basketball couldn’t overcome 21 turnovers in its second game against Charlotte in as many days, falling 75-71 in overtime at Halton Arena.

The Hilltoppers (8-3 overall, 1-1 Conference USA) led by seven with three minutes to play, but Charlotte scored 20 points off WKU’s turnovers and held them without a field goal for the final 5:30 of regulation.

“Give Charlotte the credit, they found ways to make another play and win the game,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We had opportunities, despite turning the ball over in regulation even, giving them some transition baskets. But still, found a way to basically get the last shot of the game and didn’t do it. The biggest thing is when you go up seven, you’ve got to win the game right there.”

The Hilltoppers led twice in the early minutes of overtime, but Charlotte (5-4, 1-1) reclaimed the lead for good with four straight free throws.

WKU made 19 of 20 free throws in the game, but the 49ers got to the line 24 times and made 17. Charlotte outscored the Tops in the paint and had four players in double figures, led by Jahmir Young’s 24 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

“Be smarter with the ball,” senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth said. “You’ve just got to be strong with it against defensive teams like that. They’re going to be on you. They’re going to take advantage of those. We’ve just got to be smarter with the ball, stronger and play together.”

Hollingsworth put the team on his back with 21 of his 23 points after halftime. He also made all 11 free-throw attempts, grabbed six rebounds and handed out three assists.

The Hilltoppers trailed 36-30 at halftime, and Charlotte’s lead swelled to 46-37 with 14:41 to go.

WKU scored eight straight to cut its deficit to one, and a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Jordan Rawls put his team in front 52-51 with 7:26 remaining.

From there, Hollingsworth scored eight of WKU’s next 10. His two free throws made it 62-55 Tops with four minutes on the clock.

The Hilltoppers only scored two points the rest of regulation. Hollingsworth hit two free throws to make it 64-60 WKU with 2:11 to go, but Charlotte scored the last two baskets of the period to force overtime.

Hollingsworth opened overtime with a tough basket in traffic. Freshman guard Dayvion McKnight’s free throw gave the Hilltoppers a 68-67 advantage with 3:34 left, but Charlotte countered with four consecutive makes from the stripe.

WKU’s only points the rest of the way came on a jumper by McKnight with 1:10 to play.

The Hilltoppers shot 51.1% from the field, but their offensive work was undone by the 21 turnovers.

Junior center Charles Bassey finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Rawls and senior guard Josh Anderson each had 10 points.

The Hilltoppers continue league play with a pair of home games against Louisiana Tech next weekend, starting at 7 p.m. CT Friday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

“That second day, just comes down to who wants it more, really,” Rawls said. “It’s not easy playing back to back games, but it’s the same for both teams. Both teams are playing back to back so there’s really no excuse.”