BOWLING GREEN — Darrin Horn enjoyed his homecoming to Western Kentucky so much Saturday night that he put in some overtime.
Horn, a former WKU player and coach, brought his South Carolina Gamecocks to town and escaped with an 87-85 double-overtime victory.
"It was great," Horn said of his return. "This is a special place. A great atmosphere for college basketball. I've got nothing but great memories about here."
Add one more to the list, played in front of an E.A. Diddle Arena crowd of 6,012.
Ramon Galloway came off the bench to score 22 points, including seven in the second overtime. Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington totaled 20 points and eight assists to lead the Gamecocks (4-1) from a 12-point deficit.
Lakeem Jackson added 13 points and Sam Muldrow had 10. Muldrow just missed a double-double, grabbing nine rebounds, and Malik Cooke also came close with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Juan Pattillo led the Hilltoppers (3-3) with 24 points and 18 rebounds. Steffphon Pettigrew also doubled up with 16 points and 12 boards. Sergio Kerusch chipped in with 13 points and Ken Brown had 12.
Horn, who helped Tates Creek to the 1991 state tournament, played on four consecutive 20-win teams at Western, including a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1993. In five years as coach, the Hilltoppers went 111-46 and reached the Sweet 16 in 2008.
He said Saturday's outcome was no more special for him than other wins, though, "because this is about the kids and our team."
Western led 37-27 at halftime and scored the first bucket of the second half to make it a 12-point lead.
Horn's halftime advice?
"We've got to keep playing," he said. "I felt like Western Kentucky played really well the first half, made some shots. Looked better than they had recently. And told our guys 'that's the best they've played; we don't feel like we played well. We've just got to settle down, and it's a 40-minute game.'"
Little did he know that it would be a 50-minute game.
Carolina caught up at 49 on a Cooke three-pointer. That was the third of eight ties in the game. The lead changed hands 17 times.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Kahlil McDonald and Brown gave Western a 66-61 lead with 1:26 left in regulation.
Ellington forced overtime by nailing two three-pointers in the final 36 seconds, sandwiched around a 1-for-2 free-throw trip by WKU's Caden Dickerson, for a 67-all draw.
"Coach talked about playing with our heart," Ellington said, "and that's what we did."
The Hilltoppers led late in the first overtime, too. But Muldrow grabbed an offensive rebound and put in a 12-foot jumper with 4.5 seconds left to tie the game at 75.
Western led 78-75 and 80-79 in the second overtime.
A baseline jumper by Muldrow and a three-pointer by Galloway put the Gamecocks ahead to stay, 84-80.
"It's very disappointing," Pettigrew said. "It was right there for us. The ball just didn't bounce our way."
In the post-game handshake line, Horn embraced Pettigrew.
"He told me 'just keep playing hard,'" Pettigrew said.