WKU’s four-game win streak snapped by Ohio

Senior forward Justin Johnson scores over two defenders in WKU’s game against Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, Nov. 29. 

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU (6-3) failed to maintain rhythm in the team’s first true road game as they lost 89-84 to Ohio, thanks in part to a lot of foul trouble.

The Hilltoppers dealt with foul trouble all game and it kept some of their top players from getting into the flow of the game. Junior guard Lamonte Bearden picked up three fouls 12 minutes into the game, and fouled out with several minutes remaining in the second half. Bearden played just 12 minutes. He averaged 29 minutes per game coming into the game. Sharpshooting freshman guard Jake Ohmer also fouled out, while senior forward Dwight Coleby and freshman forward Marek Nelson each had four fouls.

“We have no margin for error three ways: injury-wise, foul trouble-wise and mentally-wise,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Two of them got us a little bit tonight. Mentally we weren’t sharp, and foul trouble with Monte just really threw off the rhythm of what we were doing.”

The Hilltoppers were led by freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth, who had 19 points on 50 percent shooting. He was 2-2 from 3-point range. He also had four rebounds and an assist, and played 37 minutes. Justin Johnson posted his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Ohio’s Mike Laster starred with 23 points, a game-high, on 8-11 shooting from the field and 5-5 shooting from the free throw line. He also had six rebounds and three assists. The Bobcats were a very efficient 31-35 from the free throw line for the game.

WKU got off to a rough start in the first half. Ohio carried out an 11-0 run to help hold a double-digit lead multiple times in the half. The Hilltoppers had multiple scoring droughts that lasted over two minutes. Both offenses struggled down the stretch, and despite a scoring drought from Ohio, WKU couldn’t make up much ground. They trailed 42-30 going into the locker room.

WKU struggled offensively, shooting just 38 percent from the field in the first half. The Hilltoppers also lost the turnover battle, got outrebounded and had 10 fouls in the first half. Bearden had three fouls less than 12 minutes into the game.

Hollingsworth led the team in scoring with nine points at halftime. He had their only two 3-point makes, as the Hilltoppers shot 2-7 from deep in the first half. Coleby played well down low with eight points on 4-5 shooting and five rebounds.

“We were lucky to be down 12 at the half,” Johnson said. “They got to the free throw line way too much. That’s one of our goals every day is to win the free throw line war, and we didn’t do that today.” 

A 6-0 run at the start of the second half helped WKU get right back in the game. But Ohio punched back and pushed the lead to double-digits quickly. The Bobcats held that double-digit lead for most of the half, but WKU went on an 8-0 run in just 34 seconds — thanks in part to back-to-back 3-pointers by Marek Nelson — to get back into the game. WKU cut the lead to three points with on a Hollingsworth jumper with 14 seconds remaining. But with WKU down five, senior guard Darius Thompson missed three free throws, and it was the final nail in the coffin for WKU.

Following this loss, the Hilltoppers will travel to Wisconsin to play the Badgers at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

“They don’t lose many games there in the last five years,” Stansbury said. “They’re as good as anybody in that arena.”