The real show started just as they stepped out of their seats one last time in EA Diddle Arena.
They saw the senior night, they saw a lucky winner finally hit the long putt for the in-game promotion of $ 1,000 and they saw Taveion Hollingsworth’s mean night in what was surely another terribly inexplicable loss when the price of the Hilltoppers was there for the take.
When does the hole get too deep? Down 17 with 5:51 to go? Is it when they have had enough?
“I was angry and I was afraid we’d ruined it,” said senior Jared Savage in what he believed was his last game at Diddle Arena. “We were lucky to win a championship.”
Enter Hollingsworth, who has seen this comeback story before, ready to write a new one.
This one they will remember.
One of the most memorable comebacks in WKU history also came with a historic night of the Junior Hilltopper that ‘was just doing the hoop’.
He hit the 3-point pointer to force overtime, and victory became a formality at that point. Hollingsworth scored 43 points and the Hilltoppers returned to defeat Louisiana Tech 95-91 in overtime on Thursday in what could be the last home game of the season at Diddle Arena.
Hollingsworth scored 23 points in the second half alone and scored his 40th point on the first of two free throws with 13 seconds left in overtime.
The junior’s habit of putting WKU (19-9, 12-4 C-USA) on the back in wins from behind this year has certainly put him in the conversation for State Conference Player of the Year. -United. He did it against Charlotte with 30 points and he led the WKU game prior to the Jan. 16 game against Old Dominion when his team trailed 12 with 3:31 to go.
At that point, Lee Robertson, the 97-year-old player known in Bowling Green as Mr. Western, called him the best comeback he’s seen since he started watching the Hilltoppers in 1946. .
He was there when Jim McDaniels scored 49 points in 1971 and when Anthony Winchester lost 40 in 2004.
On February 27, 2020, Mr. Western found a new favorite comeback after another lesson the Hilltoppers continue to teach.
Beware when outdoor dogs run wild.
The regular season championship is one game away in North Texas on Sunday.
“The best team in the league, they say,” said Savage. “We’re going north Texas with a big chip on our shoulder and we’re going to take the dogs over there and see what we can do.”
Hollingsworth’s 43 points came from 11 of 18 shots and 17 of 19 from the free throw line. The Lexington native has been the most productive player on the floor for the majority of regulation, despite limping off the floor in the locker room and spending half time in the training room spraining his body. ankle.
He was 13 at halftime and took over in the second half, reducing a 17-point deficit with 5:51 to go to 10 with 2:08 to go.
Hollingsworth hit a 3 point which reduced it to a seven point game and Camron Justice made it a four point game with his own triple with 31 seconds left.
WKU cut Louisiana Tech’s lead to two with 12 seconds left when Mubarak Muhammed fouled Josh Anderson trying to bounce off a Bulldogs free throw.
Louisiana Tech (20-8, 11-5) regained a three-point lead over Derric Jean’s first of two free throws with nine seconds remaining. With no downtime he missed the second attempt and Carson Williams got the rebound and put it in the hottest hands in the building.
Hollingsworth drove and shot for a long 3 point and pivoted it with two seconds left to force overtime, giving him 38 at that point.
From there, the Hilltoppers made 11 of 14 shots from the free throw line in overtime, including five from Hollingsworth. He finished 4 of 7 from the 3-point line after hitting just nine triplets in 15 conference games previously.
“I might have to send him to the training hall every game if he plays like this,” Stansbury said. “Just show his tenacity. … You don’t see a lot of 40s in college basketball.
Hollingsworth’s 43 points are well above his previous career high of 30 points he reached three times previously, the last against Charlotte on January 18.
Carson Williams added 17 points and Camron Justice finished with 14 points on 4 on 8 on 3 points.
Justice and Savage (eight points, nine rebounds) fouled in the last minute and watched Anderson and Jeremiah Gambrell step in to provide key overtime moments. Anderson had two blocked shots and Gambrell had a driving layup after a defensive rebound.
Anderson, who was a game-time decision with a sprained toe, had seven points, seven rebounds, two assists and three blocks.
“We don’t have a guy on this team that goes out there every night worried about scoring points,” Justice said sitting next to Savage and Hollingsworth at the post-game press conference. “Savage and I are sitting here happy from hell right now that this man has marked over 40 years as he has. He got us the dub and I’m sure he would feel the same if he or I did it another night. Our main goal is to be Conference USA champions at the end of the year. “
The WKU’s 17-point comeback is tied for the fourth-biggest comeback in school history since 2002. This year alone, the Hilltoppers have won five games where they lagged by 10 or more points.
“This team has never quit,” Stansbury said. “It doesn’t mean that you play perfectly or that you hit every shot or that you don’t return it. There’s one thing I think for sure we can all witness: I don’t think I’ve ever had a team that has been downed so many times and found ways to recover against some really good teams.
WKU will travel to North Texas on Sunday at 1 p.m. CST with a U.S. Conference regular season regular season championship.
Rick Stansbury is now 81-51 in his fourth season as WKU coach. … The Hilltoppers are now 19-16 against the Bulldogs. Stansbury is 6-2 against Louisiana Tech. … The Hilltoppers have hit a 3-point in 1,038 straight games dating back to March 15, 1987.… Taveion Hollingsworth’s 43 points scored the first 40-point game by a Hilltopper since Anthony Winchester scored 40 against Louisiana-Lafayette on the 29th. January. 2004. His 43 points were the most important since Jim McDaniels scored 49 against Tennessee Tech in 1971.… Senior forward Matt Horton notched his first career start. He played the first 2:45 of the game before leaving. … The announced attendance at EA Diddle Arena was 5,030. The average home attendance for the 2019-2020 season was 5,093.
– Follow writer Elliott Pratt on WKU athletics on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.