WKU Men’s Basketball: Tops start season 3-0 with 79-71 win at Eastern Kentucky

RICHMOND, Ky. — Strong bench play and team-oriented offense helped WKU Hilltopper Basketball overcome Eastern Kentucky’s persistent pressure Friday for a 79-71 road win.

The Hilltoppers (3-0) committed 23 turnovers, but they also handed out 19 assists and got 28 points off the bench.

WKU improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2007-08.

“In today’s basketball, it’s never easy to go anywhere and win on the road,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We knew what we were walking into. We knew this was a monster game for them, and we were going to get their best shot. But I’m awful proud of our kids for the way we responded, and we did it in different ways.”

WKU also had to overcome 41 points from EKU guard Jomaru Brown.

The Colonels (2-2) pressed for the entire game, but they weren’t able to keep the Hilltoppers from shooting 50.9 percent from the field and netting 18 of 24 free throws.

Sophomore center Charles Bassey led WKU with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while redshirt junior forward Carson Williams added 15 points and five assists.

The Hilltoppers’ most crucial contributions came off the bench from freshman guard Jordan Rawls and junior guard Josh Anderson.

Rawls turned in 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting in 29 minutes, while Anderson scored 11 points, made 9 of 12 free throws and tied his career high with five steals.

“We knew we were going to get some minutes coming into practice because of how they press and speed people up,” Anderson said. “We knew our guys would be tired, so we came into practice focused and ready to play.”

Their efforts became even bigger with redshirt senior guard Jared Savage out for the entire second half with an ankle injury.

“Coach told me and Josh to be ready,” Rawls said. “Tonight we had to produce even more because we had certain guys not making shots, and we had Jared go out with an injury. We wanted to just come in and make contributions.”

The first half was full of swings, but WKU had a 15-4 run late sparked by the reserves. Back-to-back 3s by Rawls and redshirt freshman guard Jeremiah Gambrell made it 44-29 with 2:16 left in the frame.

The Hilltoppers led by 11 at halftime and pushed the advantage as high as 69-51 with 7:49 to play before EKU fought back with a 13-3 run.

It wasn’t enough as the Colonels committed 19 turnovers themselves and got outscored 44-26 in the paint, including several WKU lob dunks to Bassey.

The Hilltoppers now lead the all-time series 114-44 in a rivalry that dates back to 1914.