It was a frenzied last few minutes to say the least.
Down 16 just into the second half, WKU made a furious late comeback and tied the game at 63. Redshirt freshman guard Jameson Tipping took a hand-off from senior guard A.J. Slaughter and leaned in, through a double-team and nailed an off-balanced three-pointer with .6 seconds left.
After an Indiana State timeout, Sycamores sophomore guard Dwayne Lathan threw a baseball pass to senior guard Rashad Reed. As Reed made the catch and turned to shoot, he collided with senior forward Jeremy Evans, who was called for the foul as the final horn sounded.
The officials discussed the situation and put .1 back on the clock. Following a timeout by the Toppers, Reed sank the first free throw. He missed the second, but that was all the visitors would need, as Indiana State pulled out a 64-63 win.
"My thing is, two guys are going for the ball," coach Ken McDonald said. "Once that ball's up in the air for that long, it's anybody's ball. I haven't seen it. I'll have to see the replay to see if it's a good call, but they have a better angle. It's just a tough way to end the basketball game," "Once again, it has nothing to do with the 39:59. That was where the game was lost, not in the last .6."
It was a call the Sycamores weren't expecting, given that visiting teams typically don't get close calls like that in late game situations.
"It's their home court," Reed said. "I really didn't think we was gonna get the call. I was really just trying to make the shot. I wasn't expecting a call, I was trying to catch it and make a shot."
It was catch-up nearly the whole night for WKU. The Toppers led by one with 14:16 left in the first half and never led again. Most of that was due to an atrocious start for WKU in which it shot 29 percent in the first half.
"I think the biggest part is just energy and we'll have some guys here and some guys will come in and play this night and two guys might be off," Slaughter said. "Just having the really the whole team, including the bench ready to play and just with high energy, especially on the defensive end. The offense will come."
Slaughter himself had a scary moment with 17:50 left when he hit the floor after a scramble for a rebound. He laid on the court for a few minutes and was finally helped off by trainers. Slaughter said after the game that he collided with junior forward Sergio Kerusch and had the wind knocked out of him.
He sat out less than a minute and came back in. Slaughter had a scoreless first half, but came to life after the injury. He finished with a game-high 20 points, including four three-pointers.
"You see what kind of player he is," McDonald said. "He can step up and make tough shots, he can make his team go."
With Slaughter back rolling, WKU got back in more of a groove. The points really started coming after the Toppers trailed 59-49 with 3:31 left. WKU went on a 14-4 run to tie the game on Tipping's three-pointer. But it was too late to get out of the hole the Toppers had dug themselves in earlier.
"If we came out the way we did in the last eight minutes, if we use that intensity for the whole 40 minutes, we'll show a whole different team," junior forward Steffphon Pettigrew said. "We've just gotta start clicking together and start playing as a whole."
Last night, WKU got the controversial last-second call, as senior guard Anthony Sally drew a blocking foul in the final seconds and hit a free throw to win by one. This time, it went the other way.
"You'd think we would've learned our lesson yesterday getting down," McDonald said. "We feel like we're spotting teams with not as much energy, but we're gonna correct that. Trust me on that. We're not playing on a high level by any stretch right now. We're four games in, we've got a chance to improve, there's no question there's a lot of potential with this group and we're gonna be fine. We're building toward a 40-minute game and we're not where we need to be right now."
Was WKU short-changed a point? InsideHilltopperSports.com has an exclusive photo for members only that shows the Toppers might have been.
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