DENTON, Texas — WKU ended a six-game road losing streak and made it back-to-back conference wins with a 70-59 victory Thursday night at Sun Belt Conference West Division preseason favorite North Texas. WKU is now 13-11 overall and 7-6 in conference play, and the Mean Green dropped to 8-17 and 3-11 with the loss.
Nine Hilltoppers played at least 10 minutes in the game, and all nine scored. Jamal Crook and George Fant led WKU with 14 points apiece, with Fant adding eight rebounds and Crook contributing six boards and three assists. Brandon Harris scored 10 points in 22 minutes, and O'karo Akamune tied a career high with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting in 13 minutes off the bench. Conference preseason player of the year Tony Mitchell had 14 points and 13 rebounds for North Texas, and three other Mean Green were in double figures.
North Texas jumped on WKU from the start and led 8-0 after 3:44 gone by on the strength of six early points by Mitchell. The Mean Green led 21-13 after a Jordan Williams slam dunk, but WKU closed the half on a 14-3 run to lead 27-24 at the intermission.
Inside that run was nine-straight over three-and-a-half minutes that included two baskets by Fant, one by T.J. Price and a Caden Dickerson three-pointer.
WKU held North Texas to just one field goal in the final 4:31 of the first half. Seven different Hilltoppers scored in the opening 20 minutes, led by six by Fant and five each from Price and Crook. The Hilltoppers shot 40.0 percent in the first half (12-for-30), and North Texas went 9-for-23 (.391). WKU outrebounded the Mean Green 19-15.
WKU built upon its torrid finish to the first half scoring the first five points of the second half to lead 32-24 and extending its scoring run to 19-3 spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second half.
The Hilltoppers led 51-40 with 6:52 remaining, but the Mean Green scored 11-straight to tie the game at 51 with 4:33 to go. But WKU buckled down and responded by scoring eight-straight at one point to open up a 62-53 lead.
North Texas got as close as six points down the stretch, but the Hilltoppers secured the 70-59 win from the free throw line in the final minute.
The Hilltopper bench outscored the Mean Green reserves in the game, 19-1.
WKU ended the game shooting 45.0 percent from the floor (27-for-60), and the Hilltoppers went 7-of-17 from behind the arc (.412). After not attempting a free throw for the first 34 minutes of the game, WKU made 9 of 13 down the stretch. The Mean Green converted at a 33.9 percent clip for the game (20-for-59), and WKU had 12 assists.
The Hilltoppers return to E.A. Diddle Arena Saturday night at 7:00 to face Arkansas State. The All-Diddle Arena Team, as voted by the fans as part of WKU's celebration of the 50th basketball season at the arena, will be recognized at halftime of the game. Also, WKU's 2002-03 NCAA Tournament team will be honored at the game while celebrating its 10th anniversary.
It is also Big Red's Rascals Night on Saturday, and all members of the kids club can receive a complimentary ticket to the game. Friends and family of Big Red's Rascals members can purchase additional tickets for $7.00 each.
Tickets for the 2012-13 WKU basketball season are on sale now and can be purchased online at WKUSports.com or by calling the WKU Ticket Office at 1-800-5-BIG RED or 745-5222 locally.