The WKU men's basketball team received a hero's welcome Tuesday afternoon after their trip home from the Sun Belt Conference championship. Monday night's win in the title game means WKU will play in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
After being congratulated by fans outside E.A. Diddle Arena, sophomore forward and Bowling Green native George Fant said he wasn't thinking about what tournament seed the Hilltoppers will receive this Sunday.
"I don't know what we deserve. I don't really want to get into that. I'm just happy with the fact that we're there. For a team that was supposed to be the seventh-best team in our conference, to do this two years in a row is unbelievable," said Fant, who scored 17 points and had 13 rebounds in Monday night's win over Florida International.
Sophomore guard T.J. Price also refused to predict what seed he thought WKU would receive. The Louisiana native says he can't wait to experience the excitement of the NCAA tournament again.
"Just the feeling...when you step out on that court there's no better feeling ever. I remember last year how I felt, and I've always said I wanted the same feeling again, and now I get that chance," Price told WKU Public Radio.
A pep rally will be held outside the U.S. Bank Entrance at E.A. Diddle Arena upon the team's return to campus at approximately 4:00 PM (CT). Fans are welcome and encouraged to attend and welcome home the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament champions.
In addition, WKU will be hosting an NCAA Tournament Selection Show watch party on Sunday to see where the Hilltoppers will be playing in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Doors open at 4:00 (CT), and the Selection Show begins at 5:00 (CT) and will be broadcast on the video boards inside the arena.
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.