MONROE, La. - ULM wrapped a 12-1 run around halftime to take a 36-32 lead with 17:50 to play, but timely baskets down the stretch by WKU proved to be the difference as the Hilltoppers claimed a 65-54 victory Thursday night inside Fant-Ewing Coliseum.
The contest was the first conference game of the season and WKU improves to 5-2 overall and 1-0 in Sun Belt Conference play while ULM dips to 0-3 and 0-1 in the league.
The two squads battled back and forth until the Hilltoppers went ahead for good on a Jamal Crook free throw with 10:22 to play. Crook's free throw started an 11-3 run that gave the visitor's a 55-47 advantage with 6:48 to play.
ULM closed within four points on two different occasions, but it was unable to get any closer down the stretch.
Amos Olatayo led the Warhawks as he tied a career-high with 21 points behind a career-best in field goals (eight) and 3-pointers (three). Millaun Brown pitched in 11 points and grabbed six rebounds.
T.J. Price led the Hilltoppers with a career-high 30 points behind a 10 for 19 effort from the floor including five three pointers. He also tied for the team lead with six rebounds.
ULM opened the game on a 5-2 spurt capped by Olatayo's three-pointer from the top of the key just 53 seconds into the contest. WKU responded with a 8-3 run to move in front, 10-8, with 17:01 to play in the first half. All eight points by the Hilltoppers were scored by Price.
After an Olatayo layup brought the Warhawks within one at 16-15, the Hilltoppers used a 7-1 run to take a seven point lead, 23-16. ULM responded with a run of its own to even the contest at 23. Trent Mackey highlighted the Warhawk run with five points.
The Hilltoppers surged ahead by eight, 31-23, with 4:28 to play before the Warhawks ended a drought of more than five minutes. Jayon James' jumper in the paint started a 6-1 run by ULM to end the half.
ULM will return to action Saturday evening when they face UALR in Little Rock, Ark., with tip-off slated for 7 p.m.