WKU Holds Off LA Tech 69-68 In C-USA Opener

beIN Sports

BOWLING GREEN, KY. – What a way to open the Conference USA season on beIN SPORTS.

If you turned away from the LA Tech-Western Kentucky matchup at halftime you probably thought a blowout was brewing in Bowling Green.

Louisiana Tech scored the first points of the game on a Joniah White dunk to make the game 2-0 in the Bulldogs’ favor on their opening possession. They didn’t regain the lead again until there were 18 seconds left on the clock.

The Hilltoppers forced the Bulldogs into early foul trouble – LA Tech committed five team fouls in the first five minutes. WKU was in the bonus with 8 minutes left in the first half. The road team turned the ball over 11 times. Lead guard DaQuan Bracey shot 1 for 7 in the first half. LA Tech entered the night as the best team in Conference USA at getting to the free throw line. They did not attempt a free throw in the first half.

On the other end, WKU couldn’t have asked for a better start. Fan favorite Justin Jackson and C-USA Freshman of the Week Taveion Hollingsworth finished the first half with 12 points apiece. LA Tech turnovers led to a slew of easy fastbreak dunks and layups at the other end. Their first eight made field goals came off of assists. Everything was clicking. 

The second half proved very different.

While no one on LA Tech caught fire in the second half, the defense as a whole held first-half workhorses Jackson and Hollingsworth to just 7 points combined in the second half. After turning the ball over so many times in the first, the Bulldogs didn’t turn the ball over a single time in the second half – allowing them to chip away slowly at the Hilltopper advantage. They started to get to the line. Shots started to fall for Bracey. 

With 17.6 seconds left Miami native Derric Jean took the ball and converted his second consecutive fastbreak layup to take the lead for the first time in 39 of the game’s 40 minutes. But it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs put WKU guard Lamonte Bearden on the line where he hit two free throws to give the Hilltoppers a 69-68 lead.

Fittingly, the play of the game went to Kansas transfer Dwight Coleby – who had his best game of the season Thursday night. After pouring in 16 points and dominating the boards with a career-high 15 rebounds, Coleby sealed the game with a clinching block on a Bracey layup.

Other Scores from Conference USA

Southern Miss 65, Marshall 88

Rice 66, UTSA 79

North Texas 63, UTEP 62

Join us next week when we head to Hattiesburg. The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles play host to the UTEP Miners on beIN SPORTS at 8:00pm ET/7:00pm CT.