It wouldn't be a postseason without the WKU Hilltoppers winning four games in four days.
WKU pulled off the feat for the second straight season, beating Florida International Monday night 65-63 for the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
With the win, the Hilltoppers will make their second straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Sophomore forward and Bowling Green native George Fant led the Toppers with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Jamal Crook also scored 17, including some clutch late-game free throws that helped seal the deal for WKU.
For the second-straight year WKU has willed itself to a Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship appearance, and a win on Monday night at 6:00 (CT) against fourth-seeded FIU would send WKU to its 23rd NCAA Tournament and fourth in the last six seasons.
WKU sophomore T.J. Price’s steal and layup with 19 seconds remaining erased a one-point deficit Sunday night as the Hilltoppers advanced to the championship game of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a 58-56 win over second-seeded Arkansas State.
Monday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
The Hilltoppers have stormed through the bracket this season, winning three games in three days thus far to advance to its 13th Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game, where WKU is 8-4 all-time.
A Jamal Crook steal and layup with 17 seconds left gave WKU a 60-59 lead over third-seeded South Alabama, and two free throws by T.J. Price after another steal iced the come-from-behind Hilltopper win and sent WKU to its 9th-straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament Semifinal on the heels of a 62-59 win over the Jaguars Saturday night in Hot Springs, Ark.
The back-and-forth contest featured seven ties and six lead changes in the final 7:00 of the game. The game was first tied at 45-45, and South Alabama led by two points on a couple of occasions before the final few possessions. Barrington Stevens hit a jumper for South Alabama to give the Jaguars a 59-58 lead with 54 seconds remaining, and after a missed Price three-pointer South Alabama secured the loose ball.
On the next inbounds play, Crook entered the passing lane, stole the ball from Stevens and streaked to the basket for a layup to put WKU back on top at 60-59 with 17 seconds left.
WKU shot nearly 70 percent from the floor in the first half to help open a 46-24 halftime lead and roll to a 74-60 win over 11th-seeded ULM in the first round of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament Friday night in Hot Springs, Ark. The win is WKU's fourth in the last five games and moves its overall record to 17-15 on the season.
WKU also advanced to its 22nd-straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinal with the victory and will face third-seeded South Alabama at 8:30 PM (CT) Saturday.
WKU went 18-for-26 from the floor in the first half (.692) and finished at 58.3 percent from the game (28-for-48), and the Hilltoppers tied a season high with 11 three-pointers. WKU was led by T.J. Price's 18 points, and George Fant went 6-for-6 from the floor en route to 12 points and five rebounds. Caden Dickerson sank three three-pointers in the game, as did Kevin Kaspar, and 10 Hilltoppers scored in the game.
With the win, WKU advances to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament to face third-seeded South Alabama Saturday night at 8:30 (CT) on the Convention Center Court.
WKU’s Michelle Clark-Heard has been named the Sun Belt Conference Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year. Two of her players—sophomores Chastity Gooch and Alexis Govan—were named First Team All-Conference selections in a survey of the league’s coaches and media members.
Gooch was also named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year.
Voters recognized Coach Clark-Heard for turning the team around in her first season on the hill. The Lady Hilltoppers take a 20-9 record into this week’s conference championships. Last season, the team won only nine games.
Gooch has averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds this season. Govan averaged over 20 points a game, and hit more than 42-percent of her three-point attempts.
WKU picked up its third-straight win Thursday night at E.A. Diddle Arena, knocking off South Alabama 79-73, behind 22 points by T.J. Price and three other double-figure scorers. The win improves WKU to 16-14 overall and 10-9 in Sun Belt Conference play entering the final regular-season game on Saturday.
WKU is now 10-1 over the last two seasons in games played on or after February 21, and the Hilltoppers have won 16 of their last 19 home games. With the win, WKU equaled last season's win total five games sooner.
Price hit eight free throws and two three-pointers en route to his fourth 20-point game in his last six outings, and George Fant added 13 points and eight rebounds. Brandon Harris contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Aleksejs Rostov had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Augustine Rubit led South Alabama with 23 points and nine rebounds, and Javier Carter had a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.
WKU posted one of its best offensive performances of the season en route to an 88-77 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday night at the Cajundome to secure a regular season sweep of the Ragin' Cajuns.
The Hilltoppers (15-14, 9-9) nailed 10-of-20 shots from behind the three-point arc, one off tying a season- and Ray Harper-era high. For the game, WKU hit 50 percent from the field in the win.
T.J. Price and Jamal Crook led WKU in scoring with 23 and 21 points, respectively. Price hit 4-of-7 from three-point range while Crook added six assists to his point production for the evening. George Fant finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in just 27 minutes of play after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.
WKU Women Earn Historic Win
WKU built a 25-point lead early in the second half and rolled to a 77-58 victory on a historic day for Lady Topper Basketball at the Cajundome Saturday night.
A hot-shooting second half and four players in double figures Thursday night helped WKU end a three-game losing streak with a 75-57 win over ULM at E.A. Diddle Arena. The win improves WKU's record to 14-14 overall and 8-9 in Sun Belt Conference play with three games remaining in the regular season.
WKU shot 60.9 percent as a team in the second half and made six second-half three-pointers to help secure the victory, and four Hilltoppers had at least 12 points in the game led by George Fant and T.J. Price with 15 apiece. Jamal Crook added 13 points and seven assists, and Brandon Harris buried four three-pointers to finish with 12 points, and he also added six rebounds.
For the second-straight game WKU had at least 18 assists as a team, with 18 Thursday night on 27 made baskets. WKU scored 32 points in the paint, and the Hilltopper reserves contributed 24 points. ULM never led in the game.
WKU has received word from the NCAA that an assistant men’s basketball coach could be sanctioned for alleged violations at his former employer. WKU's Jake Morton was previously an assistant basketball coach at the University of Miami.
None of the allegations against Morton relate to his time at WKU, but the NCAA letter says any subsequent actions taken against Morton could impact his “athletically related duties” at WKU.
Morton came to Bowling Green in 2011 as an assistant coach and was later named director of basketball operations. The NCAA investigation of the Miami Hurricanes' athletic department from 2007 to 2009 involves a former booster who was later convicted of running a Ponzi scheme. The NCAA has accused Morton of accepting $6,000 from the booster, and providing transportation for the AAU coach of a top high school prospect Miami was recruiting at the time.