The Hilltoppers rode a hot shooting first half and clutch free throws late in the game tonight to defeat the North Texas Mean Green by a score of 70-64.
This was a game that many fans have had circled for a while, knowing it was a game that would really show where our team is at in the Sunbelt pecking order. The Mean Green have had a rough first half of the season, but are still one of the most talented teams in the league, so we knew it would be a tough test going into the game.
The Tops got out to a dream start by shooting 5-6 from three point land before the first media timeout occurred. For a team that has had troubles shooting the ball this year, things really couldn't have started off better. But, despite all of the hot shooting North Texas still wouldn't go away. The Tops biggest lead of the night came at 15 with 3:32 remaining after a layup by Stephon Drane, but North Texas would close the gap to 11 at the half. I don't use the term "well oiled machine" very often, in fact this may be the first time, but the WKU team we saw in the first half of tonight's game may have been the best I've seen us this year. Knowing that we can reach that level at this point of the season without Jamal Crook playing should give us a ton of confidence for when we are healthy.
The second half wasn't quite as pretty as the first, as we saw more of what the Mean Green can do when they're clicking. Guards Chris Jones and Alzee Williams took over early in the second half for UNT. WKU had a hard time staying in front of Jones on the fast break, and the Mean Green got several easy baskets because of his speed. A three pointer for Chris Overlander at 11:52 of the second half gave UNT the lead at 49-48, but that would be the last lead North Texas would see in this game. The next 10 minutes or so became the George Fant show. George put the team on his back and reminded everyone why he was the MVP of the Sunbelt Tournament last season. George finished with 14 and 7, and completely took things to potential lottery pick Tony Mitchell in the second half. For all the hype around Mitchell, he sure didn't show anything tonight. He finished with 7 points, but was a non factor on offense all night. WKU kept a close lead for the last ten minutes of the game, until some extremely clutch late free throws from walk-on freshman Percy Blade iced the game. Percy was 6-6 from the FT line in the final 1:15 of the game.
All in all it was a very impressive win for the Tops tonight. North Texas doesn't have the record to say it was a good win, but rest assured they will be competing for a conference championship by the time we get to Hot Springs. The win tonight moved the Hilltoppers to 10-5 on the season, and 4-0 in the conference for the first time since the 2005-2006 season. This win also mover the Hilltoppers winning streak in Diddle Arena to 12 games. Earlier in the evening the Lady Tops took down North Texas in the first half of the double-header to move to 11-2 on the year and 4-0 in the Sunbelt as well. Sophomore guard Alexis Govan put up a monstrous 40 points for the Lady Toppers. It's the first time in school history that both teams have won 10 games before New Years.
Both teams will make the Arkansas road trip this week. Thursday night both teams will take on the Trojans of UALR, and Saturday they will take on the Red Wolves of Arkansas State.