WKU Hilltopper Basketball and an over-capacity crowd proved just what a special environment E.A. Diddle Arena can be on Saturday night.
The Hilltoppers (7-6) dominated the second half against No. 15/16 Wisconsin, wrapping up non-conference play with an 83-76 upset win on their home court in front of 7,614 fans – the fourth-largest crowd for a WKU game since the 2002 arena renovation.
The victory gives WKU multiple wins over ranked teams in the same season for the first time since 1993. Wisconsin (10-3) was also the highest-ranked team the Hilltoppers have beaten at home since knocking off No. 6 Providence in 1973.
“A huge key – and you can give an assist – give an assist to that crowd,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “That’s what we’ve talked about from day one, wanting Diddle Arena to become. Playing these kinds of teams on this kind of stage, that’s what it’s about as a coach, as a player and as a fan.”
WKU trailed 34-30 at halftime but owned the second half, shooting 67.9 percent from the field after the break with 12 assists.
The Hilltoppers went on a 9-0 run early in the second half, and sophomore guard Josh Anderson’s steal and dunk made it 43-38 WKU with 16:54 remaining. That forced a Wisconsin timeout and sent the Diddle crowd into hysterics.
WKU never trailed again, although Wisconsin tied the game at 55-55 with 11 minutes left.
The Tops responded with an 8-0 burst, including 3-pointers from freshman guard Dalano Banton and sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth, to create some separation.
WKU eventually pushed its lead as large as 11 with 1:10 left.
“I’m a freshman so I haven’t been here very long, but that (crowd) was the best I’ve seen so far,” Banton said. “We need that every time for us to play with the energy that we played with.”
Hollingsworth led the Hilltoppers with 22 points and tied his career high with six assists, while freshman center Charles Bassey finished with 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting to go along with six rebounds and four blocks.
Anderson contributed 15 points, redshirt junior guard/forward Jared Savage added 16, and Banton came oh-so-close to a triple-double with eight points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Hilltoppers shot 55.2 percent from the field overall, recorded 19 assists, outrebounded Wisconsin 38-31 and netted 13 of 16 free throws.
“Everybody contributed,” Hollingsworth said. “Everybody sat down on their man. Like Coach said, our defense created our offense. We did what we needed to do.”
Brad Davison led Wisconsin with 26 points, while All-American post player Ethan Happ had 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The Hilltoppers now turn their attention to Conference USA play with three straight games on the road, starting at Charlotte at 6:30 p.m. CT Thursday. The game will air on beIN SPORTS.
“Every game we play, we take the game serious,” Bassey said. “We come out and give it our best every game. The kind of crowd we had to day was great, giving us some good energy. … It was a good win for us, so we’re going to take this into the next game and keep on going.”
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WKU Athletic Communications/Media Relations