FRISCO, Texas — WKU Hilltopper Basketball locked up North Texas defensively Thursday
night, opening Conference USA Championship play with a 67-51 victory in the
quarterfinals at Ford Center at The Star.
The Hilltoppers (19-13) held North Texas to just 16 points in the first half and
limited the Mean Green to 30 percent shooting overall, and 18.5 percent from the
WKU advances to face No. 3 seed Southern Miss at 3 p.m. CT Friday in the semifinals.
The game will air on CBS Sports Network.
“I was proud of the way our guys came out and responded,” WKU head coach Rick
Stansbury said. “I’ve always said that first game is a hard game, particularly when
you’re playing a team who’s already played one. They played last night and played
well – shot that ball tremendously well. … It all started at the defensive end for
us. I thought we were really locked in.”
The Hilltoppers have reached at least the semifinals of their conference tournament
in 13 of the last 15 seasons.
They’ve earned 10 straight wins over the Mean Green (21-12) and improved to 6-1
all-time in conference tournament play against UNT.
Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth paced WKU with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
Sophomore guard Josh Anderson added 13 points and seven rebounds.
Freshman center Charles Bassey tallied nine points, eight rebounds and four blocks,
while redshirt senior guard Lamonte Bearden dished out eight assists.
“This game, we were yelling in the huddle, ‘We’ve got to finish the game,’”
Hollingsworth said. “We’ve been in multiple situations like that and we let it slip,
but this isn’t that time.”
The Hilltoppers took control in the first half behind stifling defense, holding
North Texas to 25 percent from the field, 16 total points and 10 turnovers.
Even though WKU didn’t score over the final 3:59 of the half, it led 31-16 at the
break. In two games against the Mean Green this season, the Hilltoppers have held
them to 31 total points in the first half.
WKU pushed its advantage to 20 early in the second half, but North Texas eventually
climbed back within 13 by the first media timeout.
Bearden responded with a shot in the lane, and Hollingsworth knocked down a 3 to
recreate a comfortable margin.
WKU netted 20 of 28 free throws, tied the season high with nine blocks and committed
just nine free throws.
“That’s pretty much my game plan (to attack),” said Anderson, who made 7 of 12 free
throws. “Coach always tells me to stay aggressive, so anytime I think I can drive to
the lane, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Ryan Woolridge led North Texas with 13 points.