WERE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!
No, seriously, what a game of college basketball did we see today on ESPN2. It started with something we have unfortunately grown accustom to, sloppy play by WKU, which resulted in a 6-0 lead early for the Rajin Cajuns.
The lead eventually became 10 for ULL, and then WKU got things going, trading blow for blow with ULL and staying a respectable distance back. Then we move to the 2:58 mark of the first half.
That’s when the Tops went on a 26-3 run that closed out the first half and ran into the second, and would wind up being the ultimate difference in this one, finishing with a 9 point win for Western Kentucky (13-7, 5-2), who is now on a 4-game conference road winning streak, and opens road conference play 4-0 for the first time since before WKU was even in the Sun Belt (45 years to be exact). Louisiana-Lafayette, with the loss, falls to 12-8 and 3-4 in conference play this year.
Things got chippy in the middle, as ULL went on a 10-3 run which got the Cajun Dome faithful on their feet and got them loud, but the benches would explode into a near brawl as WKU called timeout while the ball was in the air, which would have wound-up being a Cajun steal. Things eventually calmed down, but the tension never did until the clock showed quad-zeros.
The man of the evening would be one George Fant, who played the game of his Hilltopper career if not his life. While he did foul out with 30 seconds to play, he finished the night with 25 points, went 10-14 from the floor, grabbed 6 boards, blocked 2 shots and stole the ball once. When the Tops needed a big couple of points, the ball found his hands, and he made the most of his time on the court tonight.
While Fant seemed to steal the show early, down the stretch, the play of a couple other Toppers made an incredible impact too. Chris Harrison-Docks and Trency Jackson also finished in double-figures, with CHD finishing with 18 and Trency with 17, and the two combining to go 12-14 from the free throw line, many of them (especially Trency’s) coming in the final minute to put this game on ice.
ULL had four players reach double figures after having 2 high scorers of 7 points at halftime – Elfrid Payton lead the way with 16, followed by 13 each from Bryant Mbamalu and Shawn Long, and 10 from Xavian Rimmer. Long also lead all players with 11 rebounds.
The Tops not only won the game, but once again, won the most important stat categories – shooting percentage (50% to 37.7%) and rebounds (38-30).
Not only that, but WKU was outstanding from the free throw line, and if they were anything but, it would have been a Cajun blow out. The Tops hit 24 of their attempted 27 free throws (good for 88.9%), and 3 players finished by going perfect from the stripe.
Today, the Tops proved they can play consistently, and this could be the game that gets them going throughout the rest of the season. It was another team game, but in a different way than it was Thursday in Monroe. As opposed to being a central unit and having fun on the floor, the guys fought for every point for each other (and Coach Harper), and would not allow themselves to lose to ULL.
And thank goodness they didn’t. The football team will send a care package of some sort.
Stand up and cheers, the Tops are victorious!