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December 23, 2012

Cards Pressure Too Much For Tops

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It was a tough task regardless, facing fifth ranked Louisville on Saturday night in a pseudo home game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN. However, Hilltopper fans had an extra shot of confidence that a possible upset could be brewing with the return of leading scorer T.J. Price, but the vaunted Louisville Cardinal full court press sucked the life out of that whole "upset" idea from the opening tip-off.

The first half featured 13 turnovers, 8 of 27 shooting (29.6%), only one assist, and the precautionary removal of both Kevin Kaspar (hamstring) and T.J. Price (ankle) who re-tweaked their injuries. It was déjà vu all over again as WKU faced a 40-22 deficit at halftime.

But fear not, the Tops were able to erase the memories of the first 20 minutes and played a more relaxed, efficient second half by limiting their turnovers (7) and shooting 11 of 22 (50%) from the field. A George Fant jumper with 9:14 remaining trimmed a once ginormous Louisville lead down to twelve at 50-38, but that's as close as the Hilltoppers got in the second half as Louisville cruised to a 78-55 win.

Player of the Game: Eddie Alcantara. The true freshman played the best game of his young college career by scoring 11 points and nabbing six rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Alcantara provided a big spark with his aggressive approach on defense and he crashed the boards hard.

Stat of the Game: Four assists. Yes, that's all the Hilltoppers had. WKU has struggled to move the ball with much efficiency in the last two games, namely, because they have faced two of the most relentless full court press teams in the country in VCU and Louisville. Unlike the disaster at VCU Tuesday night, where the Tops committed 32 turnovers, they only had 20 mishaps against the Cards. Hey, it's not much, but it's an improvement.

Where's Teeng? Teeng Akol only logged 13 minutes of playing time which had most scratching their heads. Head coach Ray Harper pointed out in the postgame that Akol was dealing with some cardio issues that limited his playing time.

Quote of the Night: "Irregardless of who we have, we're gonna be fine." Ray Harper praised the ability of his team in adapting to the recent injury struggles and if you think about it, this team will be deep by the middle of the conference schedule when Jamal Crook is expected to return. Players like Percy Blade, Eddie Alcantara, Stephon Drane, and even Aleksejs Rostov are receiving valuable minutes in a time of need. By the time March rolls around, all the chess pieces should be in place for another run to the big dance.

Next Up: Florida International. WKU returns to Diddle Arena on Thursday to ironically face another Pitino, Rick's son Richard. The good news is this will give Kevin Kaspar and T.J. Price some much needed therapy time to be primed and ready for the Golden Panthers.

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