WKU wins 76-64 against Tennessee Tech

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers guard Taveion Hollingsworth (11) shoots while guarded by Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles guard Hunter Vick (20) during WKU's 76-64 win over Tennessee Tech on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, at E. A. Diddle Arena. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

The same night Taveion Hollingsworth was celebrated for a career milestone, he struggled leading the Hilltoppers from the point guard position.

It’s unnatural for the shooting guard, whose first instinct to score is why he joined the 1,000-point club with his second bucket in the Hilltoppers’ 76-64 win over Tennessee Tech on Tuesday.

But for now, Hollingsworth is having to facilitate while WKU (1-0) awaits the eligibility of senior guard Kenny Cooper and while freshman Jordan Rawls gets more comfortable in the role.

“Usually all I’m really thinking is score because I’m at the two (guard),” Hollingsworth said. “But right now, they need a one and we’ve got a freshman guard, Jordan Rawls, they wanted me to take on that role for a little bit and teach him so when I go back to my normal position, he’ll be able to do that.”

Hollingsworth has had moments running the point the past two years, but it’s not his strong suit. Needing the junior guard at the two-spot will help the offense flow better than it did against Tennessee Tech, coach Rick Stansbury said.

WKU enhanced its guard position by bringing in Cooper and Rawls to run that spot. Cooper is a Lipscomb transfer still sitting the bench while he awaits word from the NCAA on an eligibility waiver. The senior played 100 games in Nashville and has 381 career assists against 238 turnovers.

Rawls is a reclassified freshman who Stansbury has touted as having a good flow for the offense. But when Rawls checked into the game, the coach pointed to Tennessee Tech scoring on four straight possessions. To keep the Golden Eagles at bay, Stansbury opted for Hollingsworth’s defensive play over what Rawls may need minutes-wise.

“No question, it’s an adjustment for (Hollingsworth),” Stansbury said. “He would tell you he didn’t flow very well tonight. I’ve seen Taveion be a lot better. He’s having to think as a point guard not just for himself, but when that ball doesn’t move for those other people as well, nobody is as good. He has to get better at that.

“We need Rawls to step up and play more minutes. He has a feel how to play. Most young guys don’t understand the urgency and toughness you have to defend with. Several times, he was part of that dribble drive in that section in the second half. We need him to play better, particularly until we get Cooper back.”

There are no updates on the status of Cooper’s eligibility waiver. Rawls played just 10 minutes off the bench and had four points, two steals, a rebound, assist and turnover.

Hollingsworth had three turnovers against two assists to go with his 11 points.

“I feel like I’m adjusting pretty good,” Hollingsworth said. “I just have to cut those turnovers down and be smarter with the ball and facilitate a little bit more.”

The 6-foot-2 Lexington native is up to 1,007 career points, becoming the 50th Hilltopper to reach that 1,000-point mark.

“It means a lot right now,” Hollingsworth said. “To be up there with the top with Courtney Lee and all them, it feels pretty good. But I’m trying to do bigger things.”

– Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

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