Wow! As I thought it would, the BB&T Classic didn’t disappoint as it provided two great games inside Diddle this evening! Both the Lady Tops and Men’s squad gave everything they had on the hardwood tonight and it was fun to watch! If you weren’t able to watch these events, you sure did miss out!
The Women’s game began the evening and it was a close one the entirety of the game! At the half Arkansas State led WKU by a mere one point. The Lady Tops would take the lead in the second half and extend that lead to eight points at the 12 minute mark, however that lead would gradually be erased as time continued to elapse. The Lady Red Wolves would erase that deficit and tie things up at the 3:30 to go mark. Entering the final minute A-State would be in control by four, and that lead would be enough to keep WKU from making a comeback. The final buzzer would sound with a final score of Arkansas State 67, WKU 64.
The Lady Red Wolves’ main standout was as I predicted, Aundrea Gamble. Gamble threw down 20 points, along with finding 7 rebounds and adding 3 assists. As a team A-State played very close to their averages. Their shooting was just above their season average (46% tonight; Avg. 43%), from the three they met their season average of 34% along with their FT percentage of 70%. Although they played more of an average game as statistics go, they made the plays late when it counted and will remain in the number one spot in the SBC.
As for Michele Clark-Herd’s squad, they played decently but statistically they played below average. Before I get to team stats, the Hilltoppers’ key players include Chastity Gooch (19 pts; 4 reb; 3 ast), Kendall Noble (14 pts; 7 reb; 3 ast), and Micah Jones (14 pts; 2 reb). The Lady Tops as a team shot below their FG season average of 43%, as they went 39% from the floor tonight. WKU went for 3 of 10 from behind the arc, and shot above par for them from the FT line as they went 81% from the charity strike.
My take from this game is that both of these team’s defenses caused the other to be fairly off par in their offensive game. That is what occurs when two evenly matched teams go head-to-head, especially when those teams are at the top of their conference! Although the Tops lost, it was still an enjoyable game and gave WKU some learning experience for down the road. With the loss the Lady Tops fall to 2-2 in conference play, and A-State improves to 5-1.
Now for the Men’s showdown, and yes it was just that.. A SHOWDOWN!
I’ll give you a quick sum-up! Just like the women’s game, it was a tight knit score for the entirety of the game. At Halftime WKU lead by a good score of 40-34, however to begin the second A-State jumped out on a 9-0 run creating the intensity of back and forth play until the end of the contest. With 6:27 to go however, the Tops led by eight with a score of 60 to 52. From then on the lead began to dwindle down… just like it did late against UALR. I began thinking in my mind, “Oh no, this is deja-vu”. Yes, yes it was. The Tops had the final possession of regulation to make something happen, when the shot didn’t fall and the buzzer sounded, with a scoreboard displaying matching scores, it signified one thing… OVERTIME! At this point I was truly afraid my assumption of deja-vu would be accurate. The two teams battled it out for the extra five minutes, with the final possession looking exactly as it did in regulation. Tops ball, put up a long range shot, and misses. Thus signifying… DOUBLE OVERTIME! This round of five extra minutes the Tops were able to make multiple shots giving them a lead. The final minute would include desperation fouls with the Tops capitalizing on the FTs, signifying… A TOPPER VICTORY! The final score would be 82 to 77!
Arkansas State put up a huge fight tonight in this double OT thriller, but when push comes to shove the extension of the game truly showed their need for a bigger bench. With the loss the Red Wolves fall to .500 on in SBC play as they are now 3-3. Their key performer for the night was Kendrick Washington who scored a career high 20 points as well as grabbing 9 rebounds. Other impact performers include Kirk Van Slyke (14 pts; 7 reb) and Brandon Reed (17 pts; 5 reb). Slyke was a player that I predicted to have a big night, he was limited due to foul trouble late which eventually landed him a seat on the bench as he picked up his 5th early in the first round of OT. As a team they shot just below average with a percentage of 42%. Their permitter shooting from behind the three point arch was off as they only shot 25% when they normally shoot 39%. As for FT, the Red wolves stayed consistent as they shot exactly their normal average of 71%. A-State sure did play like a Top of the Sun Belt team as they did not want to surrender the game too easily during regulation. They battled back and put themselves into position to beat the Tops, which is an element that will win them games in many cases down the stretch.
The Hilltoppers were able to pull this one out as a victory despite giving up their late lead and allowing the Red Wolves a chance to steal the victory in Diddle. Western’s main impact player for the night would have to be George Fant as he set two career milestones on the night. Fant marked his name down as the 48th member to the WKU 1,000 point club while also having a career high in points scored. Fant’s full stat line included 27 points and 14 rebounds. Other key players in tonight’s Topper victory include T.J. Price (19 pts; 8 reb), Chris Harrison-Docks (13 pts; 5 reb; 4 ast), and Aaron Adeoye (3 pts; 9 reb). From the stats line for shooting the Tops either matched their average or shot worse than normal for the night. Those shooting stats being 41% from the field, 29% from 3-point range, and 55% from the charity strike (11 of 20). At one point on the night the Tops were 6 of 8 from the line, looks like they sort of crashed and burned from the line late in the game didn’t it? Overall I am very pleased with how the Tops played. I think a reoccurring theme here of late has been a true lack of intensity. That was very much overturned tonight as the Tops came out on all cylinders in this match-up from the get-go. I really liked the physical presence that Fant was able to establish as he had several offensive put-backs. I also like the hustle and intensity Adeoye brought. He didn’t have many points, nevertheless his presence was established and known as he grabbed nine boards and had one fast break block that ended up being the State Farm Play of the Game.
I have preached and preached with how the Tops need to find offensive boards and capitalize on them, and I feel as if that sermon has truly payed off. The Tops lead the Sun Belt in offensive boards and the second chance opportunities tonight created huge momentum swings in favor of the Tops and helped WKU stay ahead of A-State at many points in the game.
I’m truly glad the Tops were able to end the three game losing streak when playing at home so that they can have more confidence throughout the remainder of the season when playing in Diddle. With the win the Tops improve to 3-2 in SBC play and to 11-7 overall. Now the Tops can celebrate for a little while, but they need not celebrate too long as this upcoming week features two crucial matches that win or lose will change WKU’s face value in the standings. I suspect these next few months to be full of excitement like we witnessed tonight, and with me being a College Basketball fanatic I can’t wait to see it all unfold! Well folks that’s all I have for you this evening! I hope you enjoyed the match ups this evening, I know I did! Stay tuned to WTRT within the next few days as we will be sending you our Weekly Recap and newly updated Power Rankings! Until then, stay classy Topper fans!