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Fant has 24 points and 13 rebounds, leads Western Kentucky over No. 25 Old Dominion 72-65

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BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky — Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper always thought his team could compete with Old Dominion.

Hosting its first ranked opponent since 1993, Western Kentucky beat the 25th-ranked Monarchs 72-65 on Saturday behind George Fant's 24 points and 13 rebounds.

Old Dominion (13-2, 2-1 Conference USA) had won 10 in a row. This was its first week as a ranked team.

Fant had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the first half and the Hilltoppers (10-5, 3-0) snapped a nine-game losing streak to ranked opponents dating to 2009.

"Our guys were getting him the basketball," Harper said. "I think they understand the more he gets it, the easier it becomes for them. You have to have an inside presence and we've got one. He's playing at a high level right now."

Chris Harrison-Docks had 19 points and T.J. Price added 15 for Western Kentucky in front of 5,123 in attendance at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Trey Freeman led Old Dominion with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting. Richard Ross added 13 points.

The game marked the first time Western Kentucky beat a ranked opponent on its home court since 1986, and the win gives the Hilltoppers a 3-0 start in their first year in Conference USA.

Western Kentucky won five straight and nine of 11 after starting the season 1-3. Road wins against Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi and Saint Joseph's at Madison Square Garden give the Hilltoppers all the confidence they need heading into the heart of conference play.

Defeating a top 25 team doesn't hurt either.

PHOTO: Old Dominion's Trey Freeman, left, battles Western Kentucky's Aleksej Rostov for a loose ball during the first half of their NCAA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Old Dominion's Trey Freeman, left, battles Western Kentucky's Aleksej Rostov for a loose ball during the first half of their NCAA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

"It's really big to go on the road 3-0," Fant said. "That sends a message. We are going to go down to Florida (Atlantic) and play the same kind of ball we've been playing, not being selfish and moving the ball, not turning the ball over and keep on getting better."

Western Kentucky used a 16-4 run to close the first half with a 36-29 lead. It had a rebounding edge of 21-9 in first half and 37-31 for the game.

Thanks to an established rhythm from long range, Trency Jackson's 3-pointer extended Western Kentucky's lead to 50-40 at the 9:12 mark while the Monarchs struggled to respond to the Hilltoppers' aggressive defense.

Old Dominion was cold from behind the arc shooting just 3 for 12 in the second half with a 27 percent mark for the game. Western Kentucky shot for 44 percent from 3-points range in the second half.

Jackson added five points while freshman Justin Johnson pitched in four points and five rebounds. The Monarchs shot for 68 percent on free throws while the Hilltoppers made 77 percent from the line.

"We're playing well. Those first three or four games I wish we could go back and replay them. We can't, but I'm looking forward to the next 15 or so we have left. I think it's going to be a fun ride with this group."

TIP INS

Western Kentucky: Price's 3-pointer that gave Western Kentucky a 45-36 lead at the 12:32 mark of the second half gave him 248 for his career, most in team history.

Old Dominion: The Monarchs blocked four shots and five steals ... Old Dominion hit its first 3-pointer of the second half with just four minutes remaining.

UP NEXT

Western Kentucky: at Florida Atlantic on Thursday

Old Dominion: hosts Rice on Thursday.

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