Final: MTSU 57, WKU 39

26 02 2011

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — So much for a bye, and so much for momentum.

The Western Kentucky basketball team left both items in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Saturday.

JT Sulton scored 18 points and WKU shot just 30.4 percent for the game as the Hilltoppers lost their shot at a first-round bye in the Sun Belt Tournament with an embarrassing 57-39 defeat to MTSU at the Murphy Center.

The loss leaves WKU with the No. 3 seed in next weekend’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament, meaning that the Hilltoppers will have to win four games in four days in order to get back to an NCAA Tournament.

“If you’re made out of anything, hopefully you’re really down and this feeling stays with you,” said WKU coach Ken McDoanld, whose team will open the SBC tourney against Louisiana-Monroe at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. “Because the next time you play like this, you’ll be done for the year.

“We didn’t have enough guys bring the energy. The intensity level we needed and the ability to handle some adversity in this kind of game – we just didn’t have enough guys ready to go.”

The defeat also went down as the fourth straight by WKU in the 125-game series with MTSU, something that’s only happened once before.

It was also WKU’s worst loss to the Blue Raiders since 1978, when MTSU scored a 98-69 win in Murfreesboro. The 39 points scored by WKU was the fewest the Hilltoppers have scored in the series since 1935-36.

But more importantly, an already short-staffed Hilltopper team will have its work cut out for it in Hot Springs, Ark. next week.

“It’s one thing to lose a basketball game,” McDonald said. “But it’s another to be in position after all the stuff we’ve been through to do some good things against a big-time rival and then come out without the energy needed is another.
“It’s one thing if we played really, really hard and just lost the basketball game – we didn’t have that tonight.

“Losing to these guys, it makes me sick,” McDonald added. “But that’s life right now. And we have to change it.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us, you just have to go out and do it.”

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