MIAMI, Fla. – The regular season wrapped up with one of Western Kentucky’s most well-rounded efforts in a place where its season hit its lowest point, however shallow that may have been.

Now all that matters is winning three games in three days.

The Hilltoppers had six players reach double-figure scoring and locked up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Conference USA Tournament with a 91-85 win over Florida International on Saturday. WKU will play either No. 7 seed UAB or No. 10 UTSA in the quarterfinals Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

“You don’t want to go into the conference tournament with an ‘L’ on your shoulder,” WKU senior Camron Justice said. “Now it’s time to really lock in and take care of business.”

A week after a loss at North Texas eliminated its shot at the regular-season title, the Hilltoppers (20-10 overall, 13-5 Conference USA) secured its No. 2 seeding by winning on the same court where one of its lowest moments came in the conference stretch Feb. 1.

That day the Hilltoppers lost 81-76 and played mostly with its starting five and never got the rhythm it needed to win in Miami, capping back-to-back losses on the exhausting road trip.

Their second chance came with an effective 54 percent shooting day helped by a hot start of 65 percent in the first half. Taveion Hollingsworth led the way with 21 points, and Carson Williams came next with 18 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the year.

Justice, who missed the last FIU game with a back injury, came off the bench for 15 points and Jordan Rawls added 14 points.

“I feel like we stayed together the entire game,” Hollingsworth said. “We were moving the ball and we were running in transition and six of us scored. That’s always good to see.”

Jared Savage put up 11 points and Josh Anderson chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.

WKU and FIU were tied at 47 at halftime despite the Hilltoppers shooting a blistering 65 percent from the field with seven 3-pointers. Williams was perfect on three 3-point attempts in the first half, while Rawls and Justice each had two. The difference was eight turnovers committed by WKU that the Panthers turned into 11 points.

WKU led by nine points with 9:51 left in the first half and then cooled off to one field goal in the final four minutes. Savage’s layup with 14 seconds left tied it up going into halftime. Rawls had 11 points and Williams had 10 points at the break.

“It was a fun game,” Justice said. “We were talking about it at halftime. That was probably the fastest game, we felt like we were playing pickup. Both teams were trying to press each other and both teams were breaking the press with ease and everybody was hitting shots.”

FIU scored the first five points of the second half and the Hilltoppers quickly tied it up on a Savage 3-pointer and a running layup on a fast break from Hollingsworth.

Hollingsworth’s jumper at the 11:10 mark gave WKU a five-point lead as the Panthers made 1-of-9 field goals since their 5-0 push to start the half. Justice had an individual 7-0 run with a 3-pointer, two free throws and a fast-break reverse layup he got on a one-hop assist from Hollingsworth.

The Hilltoppers kept up the balanced scoring by six players reaching double-figures while maintaining the lead the rest of the way, stretching the lead by as many as eight points in the final minutes.

After FIU made 7-of-17 shots from the 3-point line in the first half, WKU let them keep shooting and took away the inside penetration of Antonio Daye Jr. and the dunking ability of Osasumwen Osaghae in the second half. WKU instead forced the Panthers to shoot 4-of-16 from behind the arc in the last 20 minutes.

Trejon Jacob had 18 points and was 4-of-8 from the 3-point line for FIU. Daye had seven points and four assists after he dished out nine assists against WKU on Feb. 1. Osaghae, the nation’s leading shot blocker with 114 swats entering Saturday, had two blocks and finished with 11 points.

“If they were going to beat us, they weren’t going to beat us throwing lobs and dunking on us,” WKU coach Rick Stansbury said. “They’ve got to hit some 3s. Choose your poison. We took away the lob and took away Daye’s penetration. … They made 11 3s, but we mixed some things up and did some things different and it helped us.”

UP NEXT

WKU will be the No. 2 seed in the Conference USA Tournament next week in Frisco, Texas. The Hilltoppers have a first-round bye and play in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

NOTES

Rick Stansbury is 82-52 in his fourth season as WKU’s head coach. … The Hilltoppers are now 35-9 all-time against FIU. Stansbury is 3-2 in his career against the Panthers. … With the win, WKU secured its 46th 20-win season. Only Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, Kansas and Louisville have more 20-win seasons. … The Hilltoppers have made a 3-pointer in 1,040 consecutive games dating back to March 15, 1987. … WKU had six players score in double figures for the first time since Jan. 25 against Marshall. … Carson Williams notched his third double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds.{&end}

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

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