Taveion Hollingsworth hit two free throws with 3.3 seconds to play to carry Western Kentucky over Saint Mary’s (Calif.) 69-67 in the opening spherical of the 83rd National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday evening on the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas.
The Hilltoppers (21-7) advance to the quarterfinal spherical subsequent Thursday, after they meet the winner of Friday’s first-round sport between Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech.
It was a strong bounce-back for WKU, coming off an excruciating time beyond regulation loss to North Texas in the Conference USA Tournament championship sport on Saturday evening.
“We were very disappointed, but it’s a blessing to still be playing — we have to remember that most teams aren’t,” mentioned Hollingsworth, who made his one hundred and thirtieth consecutive begin for Western. “We’re trying to look at it in that way and I thought we responded the right way in this one.
“We were sluggish at the start of the game, but we picked it up pretty good after that — and we finished the way we needed to finish to advance.”
Western led 65-60 after a putback by Charles Bassey at 5:10, however the Gaels (14-10) rallied to attain seven consecutive factors and took a 67-65 on a 3-pointer by Alex Ducas with 46 seconds remaining.
A Bassey dunk at 0:36 off a Josh Anderson help tied the competition at 67 and a subsequent Saint Mary’s turnover led to a runout for WKU and Hollingsworth was fouled on a drive to the basket — establishing his game-winning free throws.
The Gaels’ Matthias Tass misfired on a 3-pointer simply earlier than the ultimate horn.
WKU was in management for a lot of the first half. The Hilltoppers stretched their result in 11 factors earlier than the Gaels scored the ultimate 4 factors of the half to tug inside 38-31 at intermission.
Hollingsworth led WKU with 21 factors, with Bassey including 19 factors, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Luke Frampton and Anderson every added 10 factors — every of them going 2-of-2 from 3-point vary.
The Hilltoppers shot 45% from the ground, making 5-of-10 photographs from 3-point vary. WKU additionally turned the ball over solely 4 occasions.
Point guard Tommy Kuhse delivered 17 factors and 11 assists for Saint Mary’s, which additionally bought 13 factors and eight rebounds from Tass, and 12 second-half factors from Ducas.
The Gaels shot 48% from the sector and had been 7-of-21 from distance for 33%.
WKU has now received 4 of its final 5 NIT video games, having reached the semifinal spherical in 2018 at New York’s Madison Square Garden when Hollingsworth and Anderson had been freshman.