'Toppers in habit of beating up Hogs

Published: Sunday, December 8, 2019
Rick Stansbury, Western Kentucky head coach, shouts directions to his team in the first half vs Arkansas Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Rick Stansbury, Western Kentucky head coach, shouts directions to his team in the first half vs Arkansas Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Western Kentucky's agreement announced in 2018 to play a football game at the University of Arkansas and a home-and-home men's basketball series couldn't have gone worse for the Razorbacks.

The Hilltoppers won all three games, capped by an 86-79 overtime basketball victory against Arkansas on Saturday night at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.

The Hilltoppers won the first basketball game 78-77 at Walton Arena last season, and pounded the Razorbacks 45-19 in the teams' football meeting last month.

After the football game, Chad Morris was fired as Arkansas' coach.

Junior point guard Taveion Hollingsworth led Western Kentucky (7-3) with 23 points, including a game-clinching dunk with 6 seconds left.

Sophomore guard Des Sills led the Razorbacks (8-1) with a career-high 20 points. Arkansas sophomore guard Isaiah Joe scored 18 points, and senior guard Jimmy Whitt had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Hilltoppers senior guard Jared Savage, who scored 14 points, hit a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game 73-73 with 26 seconds left in regulation.

"We came out of a timeout, and the instructions were absolutely no three-balls," Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said on his postgame radio show. "Chase, run them off the three-point line.

"Savage hits a right-corner three. Isaiah was close, but he shot a three, and the instructions were they had to shoot something inside the arc."

Arkansas held the ball for a final shot and worked the clock. Junior guard Mason Jones, who banked in a 25-footer at the buzzer to beat Georgia Tech 62-61 in overtime on Nov. 25, missed a three-pointer with two seconds left, and Whitt's putback attempt fell short, sending the game to overtime.

Musselman said Jones should have driven to the basket rather than fire up a three-pointer.

"Even though there was contact on that last shot, he's got to go to the basket," Musselman said. "At least get something better than a 30-footer because yeah, we hit that shot against Georgia Tech, but you want to get a much cleaner look than that."

The Razorbacks were ahead 73-68 with 36 seconds left in regulation after Jones hit two free throws.

"We should have won this basketball game," Musselman said. "I thought our guys played hard. The game was right there for us to close out. We didn't close it out. It's a tough one for us."

Hollingsworth was fouled by Whitt with 32 seconds left in regulation and hit two free throws to make it 73-70.

Joe then was called for a charge, giving the Hilltoppers the possession that resulted in Hollingsworth's game-tying three-pointer.

Western Kentucky took the lead for good in overtime when Josh Anderson hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the Hilltoppers ahead 78-77.

After the Hilltoppers made it 80-77 on Hollingsworth's layup, Arkansas senior forward Adrio Bailey and Whitt each hit 1 of 2 free throws.

Then turnovers by Jalen Harris and Jones helped the Hilltoppers put the game away.

Western Kentucky 6-11 center Charles Bassey injured his left knee with 3:41 left in regulation and didn't return.

Sills hit 7 of 11 shots, including 3 of 7 three-pointers.

"I thought Desi was extremely aggressive," Musselman said. "I thought he did a great job from three-point range. He did a good job of being selective with his shooting."

Jones, averaging a team-high 18.1 points, shot 1 of 9 from the field and finished with 8 points. He hit 6 of 6 free throws.

"One guy had an off night offensively," Musselman said. "And probably with the makeup of our team, that's going to be hard for us to overcome."

Sports on 12/08/2019


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