In the fifth-place game of the Cayman Islands Classic, Western Kentucky held off Tulane in the final minutes of the game to earn a 71-65 victory in its final game on the island Wednesday in Georgetown, Grand Cayman.
The Hilltoppers’ second-half run helped propel them over the Green Wave.
“Whenever you play a third game in a tournament, it’s never easy. Especially against a really good basketball team,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said in a news release. “Tulane is a really good team. … For us to come out here and play against a different style, they played zone for 40 minutes, that was new for us. … I’m awfully proud of our guys. They came out and executed about as well as you could.”
“We shot 50% from the field, 9 for 21 from the 3-point line, but the key was, they play a bunch of guards,” Stansbury added. “Their center is a forward. We weren’t going to let them pull Jamarion (Sharp) away from the basket. … They made some shots, but I didn’t feel like over 40 minutes they could make enough 3s. In the second half, their team only makes one 3. We outrebound them, got to the foul line, had 20 assists. It was just a good hard team effort on the road and the bench was great for us again.”
While WKU scored the first basket of the game, Tulane rattled off eight straight points to take a quick 8-3 lead.
The Green Wave used another run, this time of seven points, between the 6:00 and 4:17 mark, to take a 27-18 lead.
The Hilltoppers battled back with a 11-2 run to tie it up at 29. Tulane scored the final five points of the half, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer, to take a five-point lead into the break.
A crucial 7-0 run for the Hilltoppers came at the 16:08 mark. Dayvion McKnight converted a layup into a 3-point play and then Fallou Diagne turned a 3-pointer into a 4-point play at the 15:09 mark. The run gave WKU a 43-40 lead.
“It’s very important,” said McKnight, on players like Diagne coming in and making big plays. “It can be anybody on any given night. We are deep, 1-10. I think everybody coming in and bringing it is a huge thing.”
Tulane and WKU exchanged leads for a few minutes before the Hilltoppers pulled away with it. The Green Wave would make one final 6-0 run between 1:34 and 0:15 to close it to 67-65, but WKU held them off with four free throws in the final seconds to close out the win.
WKU assisted on 20 of its 26 buckets against Tulane, while outrebounding the Green Wave 32-23.
Luke Frampton once again led the team in scoring as well as rebounding with 19 points and seven boards. Jamarion Sharp logged seven blocks and six rebounds, while McKnight scored 10 and assisted on eight of his teammate’s baskets.
Emmanuel Akot named All-Tournament Team. Over the three games, he averaged 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He netted nine total 3-pointers, shooting 69.2% from beyond the arc and 52.4% from the field.
Tulane’s Kevin Cross scored 17, shooting a perfect 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. He added six rebounds, six assists and three steals.
WKU will now face South Carolina State at 3 p.m. at home in E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast locally on WKU PBS.