WKU wins CUSA Tournament, heads to Big Dance for 24th time
By Jaret MacDonald and Jim Turner

Posted on March 17, 2024 6:56 PM


WKU Men's Basketball (22-11) claimed its first-ever Conference USA Tournament Championship and earned its first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 2013 by beating UTEP 78-71 in the CUSA Championship game on Saturday at VBC Propst Arena.

The Hilltoppers learned Sunday that they will face No. 2 Marquette in the first round as the 15 seed in the South Region. WKU and Marquette will square off on Friday, March 22, in Indianapolis at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse.  

Coach Steve Lutz’s top assistant is Tim MacAllister, a 2007 graduate of Logan County High School where he played basketball and football. He does much of the talking in huddles when the Hilltoppers are in a timeout.

This will be the sixth appearance for MacAllister in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, he has coached in the national championship game while on the Texas Tech staff. He was Chief of Staff for the Red Raiders in their run not only to the Final Four but also to the final two.

The Hilltoppers, entering the Conference USA Tournament as the No. 3 seed, defeated the 5-seed Miners after taking down No. 6-seed New Mexico State 89-69 in the quarterfinals on Thursday and dominating No. 7-seed Middle Tennessee 85-54 in the semifinals on Friday.

It was the fourth appearance in the Championship Game in the last six CUSA Tournaments for the Hilltoppers, who will now make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the 24th time in program history.

Western’s Don McHenry was named the CUSA Tournament MVP after the Hilltoppers with a game-high 25 points. Brandon Newman added 15 and was named to the All-Tournament Team, along with Rodney Howard. Khristian Lander added 11 points for WKU and Babacar Faye had nine.

WKU continued its hot start to the tournament through the beginning of the title bout and led the Miners 17-4 at the 12:48 mark of the first half, before being forced to weather a UTEP comeback attempt. The Miners took their first lead with 2:35 to play in the period, but a 7-0 run pushed the Hilltoppers back in front and they entered halftime ahead, 40-36.

UTEP quickly pulled ahead in the second half and grew its lead to as high as seven points, before the Hilltoppers came roaring back in Huntsville. WKU used a 13-0 run in a roughly four-minute stretch to take a seven-point lead with 8:49 to play and grew its lead as high as 12 points before closing out the 78-71 victory.

Fans can place a $50 per ticket deposit now for NCAA Tournament tickets. Tickets will be granted based on HAF priority points and are eligible for the same amount of season tickets you have, up to 6. Place your deposit here: https://am.ticketmaster.com/wku/ncaadeposit.


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