My oh my…what a game! Honestly…if you missed this game you definitely missed out! This one was close from the get go, and a Senior Night game that also was a battle for the number 2 seed in the conference tournament set a scenario that couldn’t be beat.
The two teams kept it close the entirety of the contest. WKU held the slight advantage for most of the 2nd half…but allowed the Cajuns to sneak back in the winding minutes of the game. The final minute would consist of the Tops going to the free throw line and ULL making every shot they could to keep the game within one possession. But when the buzzer sounded and the final shot bounced off the rim…it would signify a WKU victory by 3 points.
Louisiana-Lafayette would come out full force and provide quite the show. Elfrid Payton would be the star of the night as he had a few extra spectators from the NBA to watch his performance…scouts that is. Payton would finish the night off with 31 points and 13 rebounds. His counterpart for the night was Xiavian Rimmer as he would be the second of ULL’s only two double digit scorers…he would finish with 14 points. Shawn Long wasn’t a huge presence on the points side of things, but would allow his impact to be felt on the rebounding side as he would find 10 boards on the night.
As a team the Cajuns would should 36% from the floor…and 33% from the 3 point arc. They would also shoot 71% from the free throw line…and one last stat that stuck out was their ability to rebound on the offensive end of things. The Cajuns would end up with 23 offensive rebounds and see 16 points fall as a result of second chance points. ULL had a good game, no doubt about that…they just weren’t able surpass the Tops late and would suffer a tough loss as now they won’t be able to receive that number 2 seed.
It is pretty weird for me to be able to say that another team wasn’t able to pass up the Tops…too much this conference season have I had to say WKU couldn’t hang on and would lose. How that looked like it could be the case once again tonight…just barely though…the Hilltoppers were able to hang on and get a huge win.
The one thing I’m going to say…and all that I will say for the Hilltoppers…is that they actually played like a team that wanted to win tonight. They played like a TEAM. The stats were spread out…especially among the 4 main points contributors…but overall everyone made an impact on the game. You could tell that this team wanted to win late…due to the fact that they hustled after every ball that they could…they knew how much pressure was on them to sink the free throws…they knew this was a huge game…and they came to play. This was the Hilltopper squad we knew WKU could be when they decided to.
The main stat impactors were George Fant (18pts; 9 reb), Chris Harrison-Docks (15 pts; 10-10 from FT), T.J. Price (13pts; 6 reb), and O’Karo Akamune (10pts; 6 reb). The team shot 42% from the floor and 29% from behind the arc…as well as shooting 73% from the charity stripe but sinking the shots when it counted the most. One statistical category that helps prove my point that the Tops played as a team is this stat alone…30 points that came from the bench. That’s what this team needs, offensive help that can come from the bench to help spark the starters. That is what this squad lost when Kaspar was ruled out. But things looked quite well this evening.
I was glad to see the Tops put on a great performance when it was needed. I was unsure whether they would meet the challenge or fault under the pressure…but they prevailed and tonight’s win could have very well given them the confidence they need to win the SBC tourney.
Before we get into full blown tournament talks we still have another highly anticipated contest saturday between the Tops and Georgia State. WTRT will have your game day coverage and keep you informed as the Tops close out this regular season. So until then…have a great rest of the week Topper Nation!