The Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers came from behind with strong shooting and a nearly flawless 2nd Half as they erased a 15-point deficit for the 93-84 victory over the North Texas Mean Green at E.A. Diddle Arenas last Thursday night to pick up their first Conference USA win of the season.
"Our guys found a way," Hilltoppers head coach Rick Stansbury said. "We got down and never really got enough stops in that first half to take advantage of making some adjustments defensively. But I thought in the second half, I thought once we really started getting stops and when you make shots, the world goes round. I think they were giving up 61 points for the game this season, and we score 61 in the second half."
In the 1st Half, eight lead changes occurred between the two team with Western Kentucky having their largest lead of the half at six points with 5:49 left and North Texas having their biggest lead in the half at 13 points, with 8:07 left.
The Hilltoppers had balanced scoring in the 1st Half as junior Taveion Hollingsworth scored seven points with graduate student Cameron Justice scoring six and redshirt senior Jared Savage adding five points. They made three 3-pointers and nine of their 13 free throws in the first half.
The Mean Green were led with 16 points from graduate student Deng Geu, 10 of his points came from five slam dunks. Redshirt junior Javion Hamlet added nine points as they also made three 3-pointers and all five of their free throws for a 42-32 lead at halftime.
At the start of the 2nd Half, Hollingsworth suffered an injury with 19:33 left that would keep him out for the remainder of the game.
From that point, Western Kentucky played with urgency and motivation as they shot lights out from the floor. They made nine of their 13 shots from the 3-point line with freshman Jordan Rawls and Justice each making three 3- pointers and Savage making two. Overall, they made 18 of their 26 shots overall, committed no turnovers with 10 assists and scored 61 points in the half. The 61 points tied Hilltoppers pick up first Conference USA win over Mean Green
"I think it increases our confidence overall," Cameron Justice said. "I think we were just kind of dry, and it was good to get us going, motivate us a little bit. We just had to rally around each other."
"We worked on it a lot in practice," Jordan Rawls said of the improved ball movement. "We told each other that we probably weren't going to win games playing the way we did against Belmont so we took it upon ourselves to make sure we moved the ball today."
Trailing 49-34 with 18:18 left in the half, Western Kentucky outscored North Texas 46-17 that erased a 15-point deficit and turned into a 14-point lead, 80-66 with 5:57 left to play and never looked back for the 93-84 come from behind victory.
Five Hilltopper players scored in double figures with junior Josh Anderson as a co-game high leading scorer with 19 points. Cameron Justice and Jordan Rawls each scored 18 points with Jared Savage pouring in 15 points and redshirt junior Carson Williams adding 14 points.
Javion Hamlet was also the other co-game high leader in points with 19. Deng Geu, who was held to two pints in the 2nd Half, scored 18. Juniors James Reese added 13 points with Thomas Bell scoring 10.
The Hilltoppers will be on the road to play former Franklin-Simpson Wildcat Tavin Lovan and the UAB Blazers on Thursday night and at the MTSU Blue Raiders on Saturday. Tip-off time on Thursday is at 7:00 p.m. and at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. 1220 WFKN Franklin will join the Learfield/IMG Big Red Radio Sports Network for the broadcast of both games starting 30 minutes before tip-off time.
UNT 42 42 84
WKU 32 61 93
UNT(84) Hamlet 19, Geu 18, Reese 13,
Bell 10, Draper 9, Gibson 9, Z. Simmons 4,
J. Simmons 2
WKU (93) Anderson 19, Justice 18,
Rawls 18, Savage 15, Williams 14,
Hollingsworth 7, Horton 2