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Ticket Punched: Western Kentucky wins four games in four days to go dancing again

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Western Kentucky had its ups and downs in the regular season, but the Hilltoppers seem to be unstoppable once they reach the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

Behind an impressive game from sophomore forward George Fant, the Hilltoppers won their fourth game in four days and their eighth consecutive game in the conference tournament beating No. 4 seed Florida International 65-63. Fant scored 17 points with 13 rebounds and four blocked shots to help his team repeat as Sun Belt champion.

It was redemption of sorts for Fant, who struggled in a two-point win over Arkansas State on Sunday. He went 0-for-6 in that contest and finished with just five points and three rebounds in 25 minutes. That performance was forgotten by the end of his dominant performance in the title game.

Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper has now won two straight conference tournament titles since taking over in the middle of last season. He also owns a 9-1 record in the postseason, including a win in the NCAA tournament last season.

There were several points this season where Western Kentucky repeating seemed unlikely. During a seven week stretch from the middle of December to the end of January, the Hilltoppers lost nine of 13 games. They conquered a seven-game road losing streak at North Texas in early February, but then proceeded to lose three straight.

They came on down the stretch of the regular season and have now won seven of their past eight games entering the NCAA tournament. The Hilltoppers won their 20th game of the season. It's the first time they have reached the 20-win plateau since the 2009-10 season.

Western Kentucky has advanced the Sweet 16 three times in the modern era of the tournament and played in the 1971 Final Four.

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