ULM Drops Home Opener to WKU, 65-54
The contest was the first conference game of the season and WKU improves to 5-2 overall and 1-0 in Sun Belt Conference play while ULM dips to 0-3 and 0-1 in the league.
The two squads battled back and forth until the Hilltoppers went ahead for good on a Jamal Crook free throw with 10:22 to play. Crook's free throw started an 11-3 run that gave the visitor's a 55-47 advantage with 6:48 to play.
ULM closed within four points on two different occasions, but it was unable to get any closer down the stretch.
T.J. Price led the Hilltoppers with a career-high 30 points behind a 10 for 19 effort from the floor including five three pointers. He also tied for the team lead with six rebounds.
ULM opened the game on a 5-2 spurt capped by Olatayo's three-pointer from the top of the key just 53 seconds into the contest. WKU responded with a 8-3 run to move in front, 10-8, with 17:01 to play in the first half. All eight points by the Hilltoppers were scored by Price.
After an Olatayo layup brought the Warhawks within one at 16-15, the Hilltoppers used a 7-1 run to take a seven point lead, 23-16. ULM responded with a run of its own to even the contest at 23. Trent Mackey highlighted the Warhawk run with five points.
The Hilltoppers surged ahead by eight, 31-23, with 4:28 to play before the Warhawks ended a drought of more than five minutes. Jayon James' jumper in the paint started a 6-1 run by ULM to end the half.
ULM will return to action Saturday evening when they face UALR in Little Rock, Ark., with tip-off slated for 7 p.m.
Postgame Quotes from Head Coach Keith Richard
On the Team Overall Tonight:
"I just told the team that the effort tonight would have beat some teams maybe in our league or in another league, but it wasn't 40 minutes worth of good enough basketball to beat one of the better teams in the league. I saw a lot of good tonight. I think we're putting good minutes. We saw it against Oklahoma, Louisiana Tech, and tonight. Hopefully, here soon we'll get to 40 minutes and we'll see some victories for it. I can't fault my guys' effort at all. We're trying to improve. It's the first year of rebuilding this team on the court, and you can see some new players. It's kind of nice to see some new guys out there. We have a lot of athleticism. We're not very big and we've got some missing parts, but it's a great group of guys. I wish we had more scoring down the stretch. We really struggled to score in the last five to seven minutes. If you want to win more games than you lose in this league, or really anywhere, you have to score down the stretch to keep up. We just couldn't do it."
On the play of R.J. McCray:
"I'm proud of him. He's really shown a lot of improvement at the point guard position in the last two weeks. He's not a true point guard. It's hard for him, but we're trying to get him better at that position and he's really improved the last three games."
On the quick turn around and looking ahead to UALR:
"I thought we hung our heads a bit at the four and five minute mark when things didn't go so well, and fatigue was a big factor. We had a little adversity. We had guys out with cramps, and we had some foul trouble. If you name it, we had it going on tonight, and it's called adversity. We have to do a better job of not getting so down when things don't go so well. Forty-eight hours from now, after this war, we have to go on the road and play UALR, and that's adversity again. We have to do a good job with this turn around. I'm certainly looking forward to it, and I like some things about this team. I think we have a ton of room for improvement with this group."