Toppers fall 72-53 at Middle Tennessee

A 19-3 Blue Raider late in the second half put distance between Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, as MTSU knotched a 72-53 win over WKU in Murfreesboro on Saturday afternoon.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — WKU stayed within two possessions of Middle Tennessee until midway through the second half, but a 19-3 Blue Raider run put distance between the two teams and powered Middle Tennessee to a 72-53 win Saturday afternoon in Murfreesboro. The loss is WKU's sixth in the last seven games and moves its record to 11-11 overall and 5-6 in Sun Belt Conference play. Middle Tennessee improves to 18-4 and 10-1 in the league with the win.

Despite the defeat, WKU still leads the all-time series between the two rivals 92-36. Middle Tennessee has now won 24-straight regular season games at the Murphy Center.

Kevin Kaspar led WKU with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and Stephon Drane added nine in 10 minutes off the bench. Middle Tennessee was paced by 15 points by Marcos Knight and 10 and seven rebounds by Bruce Massey.

Despite falling behind 8-0 at the start of the game, WKU chipped away at the lead via the free throw line and got within six points at one point before the half ended with Middle Tennessee on top 30-23. WKU made 11 of 18 free throw tries (.611) in the first half, and won the battle of the boards in the opening 20 minutes 18-12. Middle Tennessee shot 44.0 percent from the field (.440) and limited WKU to 31.6 percent shooting in the half (6-for-19).

WKU had 12 turnovers, which the Blue Raiders converted into 13 first-half points. WKU was led by George Fant's seven points and six from Kaspar. Twelve different Hilltoppers played in the first half and seven scored.

Kaspar buried a three-pointer to make the score 42-36 Middle Tennessee with 14:01 left in the game, but from there the Blue Raiders scored 14-straight points and 19 of the next 22 to open up a 61-39 lead and provide all the cushion they needed.

WKU finished the game shooting 39.0 percent from the floor (16-for-41) and made 17 of 27 free throw tries (.630). Middle Tennessee shot 48.1 percent for the game (25-for-52) and hit six three-pointers. The Blue Raiders forced 18 WKU turnovers in the contest, and Middle Tennessee turned a six rebound disadvantage in the first half into a plus-six rebounding margin for the game.

WKU returns home on Thursday for a 7:00 contest against Troy. The game will be televised by the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network airing nationally on ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court, regionally on WKYU-PBS and in Louisville on WBNA. It will also be broadcast on the radio on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network with Randy Lee and Hal Schmitt on the call.

Thursday is Faculty/Staff Night, and WKU faculty and staff members can receive a free reserved ticket by coming to the WKU Ticket Office before gameday. Also, on Thrifty Thursday, fans can purchase two reserved bleacher seats for $15.00 or four reserved bleacher seats for $30.00. The Hilltopper Express Deal is available at the concession stands, which is one hot dog, one bag of popcorn and one bottle of soda for $7.00.

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.

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