WKU Hilltoppers Sweep MTSU, Off to Best Start in 19 Years

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU Hilltopper Basketball locked down defensively Sunday to earn a 68-52 win over Middle Tennessee and its best start in 19 years.

The Hilltoppers (13-4 overall, 6-2 Conference USA) held the Blue Raiders to 28.6% from the field to complete the series sweep in back-to-back games.

WKU’s 13-4 start is its best through 17 games since the 2001-02 season.

“That wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was a win,” WKU associate head coach Phil Cunningham said. “These back-to-backs are a mental test and physical test. We walked out of here 19 hours ago for an early tip today, and we really challenged the guys, ‘Let’s be the most energetic team. Let’s break their will.’ … If you look at it, we kind of broke their will down the stretch to kind of finish them off.”

The Hilltoppers finished the job with well-rounded production.

Junior center Charles Bassey led the way with 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, but five other players had at least eight points.

Sophomore guard Jordan Rawls found double figures off the bench again with 10 points, while redshirt senior guard Kenny Cooper and senior guard Josh Anderson each had nine. Anderson also had a season-high nine rebounds and three assists.

Redshirt senior forward Carson Williams and senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth chipped in eight points apiece.

“I think that’s one of the strengths of our team, when it comes to these back-to-backs,” Cooper said. “We have so much depth. We’ve got a bunch of guys that can play. Maybe the first night guys don’t get as many minutes, but on that second night, me and J Rawls were fresh, ready to go and excited to play. I felt like we played excitable and with tons of energy.”

WKU led 16-14 when it went on a pivotal 9-0 run in the first half. Two free throws by Bassey made it 25-14 with 3:37 left.

Bassey’s shot in the lane with 41 seconds left gave WKU a 31-20 halftime lead.

Middle Tennessee (3-9, 1-5) cut the deficit to four at 55-51 with 4:48 to play, but the Hilltoppers answered with a crushing 7-0 run.

WKU scored the final six points of the game at the free-throw line between Cooper and Hollingsworth.

The Hilltoppers shot 48% from the floor and made 17 of 22 free throws. They also outscored the Blue Raiders 38-18 in the paint.

“We’ve got a great all-around team,” Rawls said. “Some nights the 3 won’t be falling, but we’ve got plenty of guys that can get inside, draw fouls and finish at the rim.”

Jayce Johnson paced Middle Tennessee with 10 points and seven rebounds.

WKU is slated to host Old Dominion this week in a home series starting at 7 p.m. CT Friday at E.A. Diddle Arena. The game will stream online on CBS Sports Network on Facebook Watch.