The Eagles faced off with the C-USA’s Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Bowling Green in the first round of NIT play tonight. The teams were touted as evenly matched, offensive squads, and they lived up to their billing in the first half. They traded leads back and forth for 18 minutes, but foul trouble got the Eagles out of their offense and allowed the Toppers to go on an 11-2 run in the final two minutes to take an 8-point lead into halftime. Jerome Robinson struggled behind the extended three-point arc, hitting just one of five in the first half. Meanwhile, the Hilltoppers took ten free throws in the final minutes as Johncarlos Reyes, Nik Popovic, Luka Kraljevic, and Ky Bowman all picked up two fouls. The Eagles did not get to the line in the first half.
The Eagles continued to struggle to find an offensive rhythm out of halftime, shooting just 28.6% in the third quarter The defense could not get it done today; the Hilltoppers shot over 60% in every quarter. The Eagles tried the press in the fourth quarter, but WKU was successful at breaking it and finding wide open layups at the other end. The HIlltoppers also came up with five offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter for ten second chance points. WKU senior Justin Johnson led all scorers with 19. The Hilltoppers never let up and finished the night with a 79-62 win.
The loss ends BC’s season with a 19-16 record overall. Western Kentucky advances to the second round of the NIT, and will face the winner of tonight’s late game between Southern Cal and UNC- Asheville. This marks BC’s highest season win total since 2010-2011.