So Topper fans we go from one of the most boring games of the season, to the next game played being one of the most exciting games of the season! The game turned out as I expected with things going down to the final buzzer!
Things started out very sloppy for the Tops, as they had three turnovers right out of the gate. After a 5 man substitution by Coach Harper the Tops would begin to improve on their play. As shots began to fall their momentum would begin to grow and that would help erase an early eight point deficit. WKU would gain their first lead of the game with 6:26 left in the half. That lead however would be quickly taken away as the Trojans would spring to an 8-0 run. Rounding out the first half UALR would hold a two point lead of 33 to 31. The second half would feature back and forth play, with WKU holding a single digit, steady lead for several periods of time. The Tops held an 8 point lead with 5:16 to go, however that lead wouldn’t last long. The Trojans would lower that deficit down to just two in just a matter of two minutes. From then on things would be very intense! Entering the final minute WKU would hold a three point lead. Josh Hagins for UALR would come in clutch sinking a three point basket with 13 seconds to go, causing the Trojans to just be down by 2. Then just 5 ticks off the clock later he would sink a tying field goal with 8 seconds left to play. The Tops would try to seal the deal in that time but were unsuccessful, thus causing an extra five minutes to be added for OVERTIME! To begin OT Alex Rostov would drain back-to-back three pointers giving WKU an early 6 point lead. Overtime would then include the Trojans fighting back creating a very close score to a winding down clock! Chris Harrison-Docks gave WKU a one point lead with 32 seconds to go, however UALR would answer with a lay-up with 15 seconds left. The Trojan one point lead would be added to with two free throws made creating a three point lead with seven seconds to go. UALR decided to go ahead and foul the Tops, limiting them to just free throws and unable to have a last second desperation three. Both WKU free throws were made by CHD, thus leaving a one point lead still to the Trojans. Tops would foul with four seconds left, Trojans make both free throws. Once again a three point game with four seconds left, and the Tops hustled the ball down the court just to have it stollen away signifying a Trojan victory! Summary of all this? To put it simply, it was an exciting game to watch! Much to the contrary of WKU’s past performance against Georgia State (as I have said multiple times here lately).
Arkansas-Little Rock proved to me tonight that they are more of potent Sun Belt team than I had originally written them off to be. Tonight’s win improves them to 4-1 in the SBC, and to 9-8 overall. Who were their star players for the night? First off being Will Neighbour as he had a career game high 32 points scored, along with 7 boards to tack along with that achievement. I had projected in the Pre-Game Article that Neighbour would be a difference in tonight’s game, but I truly didn’t think he would go off on a scoring rampage. I also thought he would be the only true standout from the Trojans. Apparently James White and Josh Hagins wanted to prove me wrong as they both put up great numbers of their own. White dropped a double-double on the Diddle hardwood as he went for 14 points and 10 rebounds. Hagins scored 15 points along with 2 rebounds, as well as some crucial baskets to make it into my standout category for the night. As a team the Trojans shot 32-55 from the floor (58.2%) and 5 of 9 from the 3 point arch (55.6%). Not to mention they also went 18 of 22 from the FT line (81.8%) which is truly what could have allowed the Trojans to have a shot to win this ball game in the first place. UALR proved to me they deserve more credit than what has been given to them, and they proved it against a very good Topper team tonight!
WKU didn’t have too terrible of a night. They played decent and should have came home wight the win, especially being up by 8 towards the end of the 2nd half. However, even though the Tops had some very nice plays and some WKU players had big games, I still think as a team they just played average. Tonight they shot 46.7% from the field, which compared to last game is a perfect game. However, that percentage is just above their season field goal average (40.2%). Tonight’s FT percentage? Just 66.7%. The season FT average? 67%. The 3 point percentage was higher than the season average considerably, as WKU shot 44% from behind the arc tonight. But overall I just felt like our shooting was just plain… AVERAGE. Other key stats include WKU having 11 offensive rebounds, and a total of 30 boards. The Tops only had 13 turnovers, which wasn’t good but that mark is below average so I can somewhat be pleased. I would also like to note that WKU had 17 personal fouls, with that number truly affecting the personnel the Tops were able to bring out onto the floor. I’m mainly speaking of George Fant, as he picked up his 4th foul early in the second half, not allowing the physical presence he had been providing during the duration of time he spent in the game. Some of the key players for the Tops include Alex Rostov (career high 20 pts; 2 reb), Harrison-Docks (14 pts; 3 ast), Brandon Harris (13 pts; 3 ast;) and Kevin Kaspar (11 pts; 5 reb; 4 ast).
I take from this loss that the Tops still have a lot of work to put in before the Conference Tournament, obviously. However I did like the improvement as a team and the aggressiveness shown as a whole throughout the game. Which has been a lacking element to some of the Top’s games. I’d also like to note that WKU competed and almost won against a top SBC team without their leading points scorer; T.J. Price. Price was said to have been suspended for violation of team rules for this game. As of now we are unclear, and no official statement has addressed the full length of Price’s punishment. So without Price in tonight’s game, I think the Tops showed great ability to play without one of their main leaders. I do however think this game could have ended much differently if Price had been on the court tonight.
Resulting from this game the Tops fall to 10-7 on the season, and now 2-2 in SBC play. WKU has also lost its’ past three games at home. With a huge game coming up Saturday against top of the SBC Arkansas State Red Wolves in Diddle, the Tops will have to try and change the home losing trend otherwise SBC play could begin to get ugly. We all know that if you can’t win at home, you most definitely can’t expect to win on the road. So folks get ready what is sure to be another wild ride of a game against the Red Wolves saturday! That game tips-off at 7 PM. So until then Hilltopper Nation, get pumped and get prepared to cheer on dear old Western! Stand up and Cheer!