CONWAY, S.C. — Friday night was a battle, and the battle went to the Hilltoppers.
WKU Hilltopper Basketball (3-1) went blow for blow in a gritty matchup with RV/No.
13 West Virginia, then made enough plays down the stretch to pull out a 63-57 win in
the semifinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
The Hilltoppers advance to face UCF in the championship game at 5:30 p.m. CT Sunday.
“West Virginia is a tremendous basketball team,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said.
“They’ll be one of those teams at the end of the year that will be fighting for
championships and deep seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Tonight we were able to find
“… What I’m most proud of – we probably went against the hardest-playing team in the
country, and I thought our guys rose to the occasion.”
This is WKU’s 33rd all-time win over a ranked opponent, including its 12th on a
neutral site. After beating Purdue last season, this is the first time the
Hilltoppers have defeated top-25 opponents in back-to-back seasons since 2008-09.
Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth and freshman center Charles Bassey each had 13
points to lead WKU. Going against First-Team All-Big 12 center Sagaba Konate, Bassey
stood tall with a career-high 15 rebounds and 7-of-8 made free throws.
“I’m ready to play against anybody,” Bassey said. “It was a good game. My teammates
played together and stayed together and took care of business, so we came together
as a team.”
West Virginia (1-2) led most of the first half, but WKU freshman forward Tolu Smith
scored the final four points of the half to trim the Mountaineers’ lead to just two
With WVU still leading 51-50 with 6:21 to play, the Hilltoppers rattled off seven
straight points to build a cushion.
The Mountaineers tied it back up at 57-57, but WKU sophomore guard Josh Anderson
found graduate senior forward Desean Murray for a dunk with 1:02 remaining, and the
Hilltoppers never gave up the lead again.
WKU shot just 32.1 percent from the field but netted 27 of 34 free throws. The
Hilltoppers made eight more free throws than West Virginia attempted.
They also forced the Mountaineers into 22 turnovers with 15 steals, converting those
miscues into 20 points. Anderson, Hollingsworth and redshirt junior guard/forward
Jared Savage each had four steals.
“We knew they were going to play hard defense,” Anderson said. “We knew if our
offense wasn’t going, we’d have to get back and play defense. I thought we did a
good job with that.”
Anderson and Savage, had 12 and 11 points, respectively, and Smith added nine points
in nine minutes off the bench.
Esa Ahmad paced West Virginia with 12 points.
The Hilltoppers will be trying Sunday to win their first in-season tournament
championship since beating No. 4 Kentucky and George Washington in 2001 to claim the
NABC Classic title.