BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — For the first time in Conference USA play, WKU Hilltopper Basketball brought out the brooms Sunday.
The Hilltoppers (11-4 overall, 4-2 C-USA) rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to secure a 69-67 win at Marshall, completing their first series sweep in league play after two opening splits.
“Getting down a little bit the first half, our guys showed a lot of grit and a lot of character,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “I thought I had my best effort of togetherness in the second half that I’ve had. That doesn’t always show in the scoring, but I thought we were really connected.”
Junior center Charles Bassey led the way with 24 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, and redshirt senior forward Carson Williams had a breakout game with 16 points and three made 3-pointers.
The Hilltoppers shot 45.5% from the field and made 7 of 11 3-pointers, while holding Marshall to 37.1% overall and just 24.2% from behind the arc.
“These back-to-back games this year bring a new challenge,” Williams said. “It’s tough and something we haven’t experienced before, so in order to be successful in the league and achieve the things we want to do, we’ve got to sweep and win both games, and we have to continue to do that.”
Marshall (7-4, 1-3) built a 35-27 halftime lead with a 16-2 run to end the frame, including Taevion Kinsey’s 3 from just inside halfcourt at the buzzer.
WKU opened the half with a 14-6 run to tie it at 41-all on a 3-pointer by Williams with 15:22 left. An 8-0 run by the Tops, including six points from senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth, made it 49-46 WKU with 12:57 remaining.
Marshall’s last lead came on an and-1 play by Kinsey that gave the Herd a 55-53 advantage at the 8:38 mark.
The Hilltoppers responded with a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer by redshirt senior guard Kenny Cooper and a putback by sophomore guard Jordan Rawls.
Rawls made two big free throws with seven seconds left, and WKU made a defensive stand on Marshall’s final 3-point try for the win.
“The biggest key was just playing as a team,” Bassey said. “You guys saw the last call when the refs said it was their ball, everybody knew it was our ball. But we all stuck together and Coach called a timeout and we just played good defense. Going into halftime, we were down by eight, and we just said we had to get back to the way we play, and play on defense. When we came back from halftime, we won the first four minutes and just got right back to it.”
Kinsey led Marshall with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The Hilltoppers will stay on the road for a two-game series with another rival, Middle Tennessee. The first game is slated for 4 p.m. CT Saturday on ESPN+ in Murfreesboro, Tenn.