The Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers began Conference USA play with road games at the Charlotte 49ers and the Old Dominion Monarchs. Western Kentucky split those games but could have easily and probably should have two wins to start conference play.
The Hilltoppers' basketball team set a season high for made 3-pointers and took control early in their first game in Conference USA with a 68-50 win at Charlotte on Thursday.
Western Kentucky, who improved to 8-6 overall and 1-0 in Conference USA, nailed 12 shots from 3-point range, their most in a game since also hitting 12 3-pointers against Southern Miss on Dec. 30, 2017.
The Hilltoppers have won 10 of its last 12 conference openers including three straight under head coach Rick Stansbury, who won his 50th game as head coach of the Hilltoppers.
"We haven't been able to sub all year long at the level we subbed tonight," Stansbury said. "I basically took those starters out around the 15-minute mark. I know we scored the first 11 of 15 possessions coming out of halftime and I think they scored twice. I have a bunch of guys who sat over there in tight games who needed to play."
All 10 Hilltoppers who played scored, led by redshirt junior Jared Savage's 13 points. But no starter played more than 29 minutes as they got 23 points off its bench. Sophomore guard Jake Ohmer led the bench scoring by making a career-high four 3-pointers for 12 points in 26 minutes.
"Last game, I got in and hit one, so I've been in the gym working," Jake Ohmer said. "I've been trying to prove myself and get back in a rhythm and play more."
Freshman center Charles Bassey finished with 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks while freshman guard Dalano Banton added 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. Both freshman guard Jeremiah Gambrell and redshirt junior forward Moustapha Diagne made their first career 3-pointers as a Hilltopper.
"It was good for us, the way we came out today -- especially in the second half," Moustapha Diagne said. "Everybody contributed and then we got stops, so it was good for us."
Trailing 17-15 at the 7:24 mark of the first half, Western Kentucky went on a 14-2 run to pull in front 29-19, ignited by back-to-back 3-pointers from Savage and Ohmer.
The Hilltoppers led 34-25 at halftime and used a 17-4 run in the second half to quickly run that lead to 48-29. They eventually led by as much as 25 with 5:12 to play.
Western Kentucky shot 50 percent from the field, out rebounded Charlotte 35-23 and handed out 14 assists.
Senior Jon Davis led Charlotte, a team that is 3-9 overall and 0-1 in the conference,
See WKU/Page A6
with a game high of 24 points.Old Dominion 69
The Hilltoppers opened Saturday night's game with a 21-0 lead, but the Old Dominion Monarchs battled back and handed the Hilltoppers a 69-66 road loss.
Western Kentucky, a team that is 8-7 overall and 1-1 Conference USA, held Old Dominion scoreless for more than seven minutes to open the game. The Monarchs, who improve to 11-4 and 1-1 in conference play, trimmed its deficit to seven by halftime and took control with a big run midway through the second half.
"You go up whatever it is was, and you can't relax," Stansbury said. "Twenty points means very little in today's basketball. We had self-inflicted turnovers. I also thought their toughness versus ours exposed us some."
Western Kentucky started the game in a dominant fashion as they forced Old Dominion to miss its first 12 shots. The lead grew to 21-0 at the 13:01 mark on a traditional three-point play by sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth before the Monarchs began to battle back.
The Monarchs went on a 32-13 run into the final two minutes of the half to pull back within 34-32, but Hollingsworth answered with a 3-pointer, and freshman center Charles Bassey scored on a layup to stretch the lead to 39-32 at halftime.
The Monarchs cut their halftime deficit to within one within the first four minutes of the second half, but it was their 14-2 run midway through the second half that allowed them to build a cushion, including three straight 3-pointers.
Senior guard Ahmad Caver's 3-point shot gave Old Dominion a 58-51 lead with 7:57 to play.
"The defense was physical, and we weren't being strong with the ball," Hollingsworth said. "Their defense is pretty physical and we just never got used to it."
Western Kentucky tied the game at 62-62 with 3:14 remaining but Old Dominion answered with a huge 3-pointer from Redshirt sophomore Xavier Green and never gave up the lead.
Hollingsworth and Bassey each led the Hilltoppers with 19 points as Bassey added 12 rebounds and three blocks. Sophomore guard Josh Anderson added 17 points.
Redshirt senior guard B.J. Stith led Old Dominion with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Caver poured in 18 points and dished out six assists.
The Hilltoppers finish their three-game road stretch to open Conference USA play at the Marshall Thundering Herd, defending league tournament champion, at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
1220 WFKN Franklin radio will broadcast the game beginning at 5:30 p.m. with the Hilltoppers' Pre-Game Show.