Ray Harper's team looks to rebound following loss at Louisville

WKU has two remaining out of conference contests before beginning Conference USA play on Jan. 3 against Marshall

There were a lot of storylines and unanswered questions when the Hilltoppers came into the KFC Yum Center to play Louisville on Saturday.

How would this team play against a nationally ranked opponent? Would the Tops fold or fight back if they got down in the game? What will we know about Coach Ray Harper’s young team afterwards?

After WKU’s 78-56 loss to the nineteenth ranked Cardinals, most of those questions had answers.

Coach Harper sees potential in his team and is ready to see how his players will develop moving forward.

“We just gotta continue to grow. We have a lot of new guys. I see a lot of bright spots, and a lot of potential. We just have to continue to get better,” Harper said.

WKU produced just 16 points and trailed by 14 at the half. But the Tops came out with energy on defense and in transition in the second half, and cut Louisville’s lead to just seven at one point.

Even in a losing effort, there was a lot to take away from the game for WKU.

 “I just thought we played on our heels the whole first half,” Harper said. “We didn’t attack. We played east to west, and in the second half we played a little bit more north to south.”

WKU shot just 2-18 from behind the arc, far below their season average of 46 percent, and couldn’t hold the Cards in check on defense.

“In the second half we played hard, but in the first half we just dug ourselves a hole and it’s tough to get out of a hole like that,” sophomore forward Justin Johnson said. “We shot awful from the three-point line but a bunch of them were good looks, shots that our guys usually make so you can’t hang your head about Harper’s squad is now 6-5 on the season and will be looking to fine-tune some things as C-USA play approaches.

“We have a feel for each other now,” Johnson said. “Every day in practice is a competition and we’re getting better.”

The Tops have alternated wins and losses in almost every game this season, and will be looking for ways to win consecutive games in order to establish not only consistency, but identity.

WKU left the Yum Center on Saturday with some answers, and some new questions too. Adversity will present itself in almost every game. The questions moving forward will be about how this team can respond.

Who will step up when they need to? How can they make the necessary in-game adjustments to compete? Who will this team be by the end of conference?

The first opportunity for WKU to answer these questions in conference play will be at Marshall on Jan. 3.

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