WKU closes non-conference play with win over Austin Peay

WKU guard Darius Thompson (15) attacks the basket for a layup during WKU’s game vs. Nicholls State on Nov 19 in E.A. Diddle Arena. WKU won 100-86.

Sam Porter

The WKU men’s basketball team traveled to Austin Peay on Friday night to take on the Governors in their non-conference season finale. Similar to their 75-72 loss to Belmont earlier in the week, the Hilltoppers dominated their opponent inside, outscoring APSU 46-23 in the paint en route to a 72-55 victory.

WKU played with just seven players as freshman guard Jake Ohmer missed the game after suffering a concussion near the end of the Hilltoppers’ loss vs. Belmont. Despite being more shorthanded than usual, WKU defeated APSU for the second consecutive season.

“I thought we really dug in and took our toughness to another level,” Head Coach Rick Stansbury said in a radio post game interview. “Thats what you have to do, especially on the road. When you’re on the road and you’re down 10 points at one point, you find out what you’re made of. We found out what we were made of tonight.”

Trailing 42-38 early in the 2nd half, the Hilltoppers began to catch fire. WKU went on an 11-0 run, highlighted by a one-handed dunk by graduate transfer guard Darius Thompson, to take a 49-42 lead. Thompson finished with a career-high 21 points as well as seven assists, six rebounds, six steals and zero turnovers.

“DT(Darius Thompson) is real great at transition as we know,” Bearden said of Thompson. “He can pass the ball real well too. He’s real good for us, and he showed it tonight.”

Maintaing a seven-point lead, junior guard Lamonte Bearden picked up his fourth foul with roughly 14 minutes still to play, forcing Stansbury to put the Buffalo transfer on the bench and making the Hilltoppers play with just five scholarship players and six total players for a period of time. During Bearden’s absence, the Governors cut the WKU lead to one point before WKU once again pulled away, going on a 13-2 run highlighted by a Thompson 3-pointer to give WKU a 62-50 lead with 7:14 to play. WKU held the Governors to just five points the remainder of the game, and held on for a 72-55 victory.

Bearden, Thompson, and freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth combined for 55 points between the three of them. Senior forwards Justin Johnson and Dwight Coleby each added eight points and eight rebounds apiece.

The win improves WKU to 8-5 and concludes non-conference play. The Hilltoppers take on Louisiana Tech on Thursday, Dec. 28 in Diddle Arena to begin Conference USA play.

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-799-8247 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.