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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A slow start with missed shots in the paint and several turnovers put WKU Hilltopper Basketball behind the eight-ball in a 71-54 loss to No. 2 Louisville at Bridgestone Arena.

WKU (6-2) started the game 0-for-7 from the field and committed 10 first-half turnovers, while Louisville – set to take over the nation’s top ranking next week – got 25 points from Preseason First Team All-American Jordan Nwora.

“You have to give them credit, but I would say we had some point-blank layups around that rim,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Did they have something to do with altering it? Maybe so, but they weren’t bad or contested shots.

“… We’re disappointed in the loss, but I’m proud of the way our guys battled back. You could easily lay down after that first 12 minutes of the game down 14 and get beat 40. But we didn’t. We fought back.”

The Hilltoppers committed just one turnover after the break, but that came after Louisville (7-0) opened the game with a 9-0 run and built a 37-23 halftime advantage.

WKU clawed its way back to a single-digit deficit with 9:35 left after two free throws by sophomore center Charles Bassey made it 51-42, but Louisville exploded with seven straight points and a 13-2 overall run to pull away.

The Cardinals eventually led by as much as 21 with 3:58 to play.

“Like Coach said, we were down, and we just have to be disciplined on defense,” Bassey said.

Junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth led WKU with 16 points, while Bassey added 14 points and nine rebounds.

WKU went 1-for-17 from the 3-point line. After failing to shoot a free throw in the first half, the Hilltoppers went 13-for-14 from the stripe in the second half.

“It was a tough one. You’re going to have games where you’re on and off, but these kind of games you don’t want to be off. We’re going to learn from that, get back in practice and make shots.”

WKU will play its fifth straight game away from home at Wright State at 6 p.m. CT Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. The game will stream online on ESPN+.

How to follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper Basketball, follow the team’s social media channels, @WKUBasketball on Twitter, @WKUBasketball on Instagram, and WKU Basketball on Facebook.

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