WKU outlasts Nicholls State to close homestand

WKU forward Marek Nelson finishes a dunk in the Hilltoppers’ 100-86 victory over Nicholls State on Sunday

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU managed to hold on and defeat Nicholls State 100-86 for their second win of the season in a game that became a tale of two halves.

WKU scored 62 points in the first half and held a 30-point lead at the break with a shooting percentage of 68.6 percent. But in the second half they were outscored 54-38, missed 15 free throws and turned the ball over 10 times.

“We didn’t put two halves together,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “You’ve got to be able to find ways to come out and play with that same energy, that same effort, and that same toughness and that same focus as if it’s zero-to-zero. We didn’t do that.”

Freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth stood out with 24 points, five rebounds and six assists. He was a highly-efficient 9-11 from the field, though he went 6-13 from the free throw line. He was one of six WKU players to score in double figures on the evening.

“He’s really good when he gets downhill,” senior forward Justin Johnson said of his teammate Hollingsworth. “He comes off the ball screen, he attacks, and that’s what you want from that guard position, making the extra pass and when he comes off that ball screen, if that big doesn’t step up there he’s going to pull up or he’s going to beat you to the basket.”

WKU also got significant contributions from both of their starting big men, as senior forwards Johnson and Dwight Coleby each had double-doubles. Johnson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Coleby had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Senior guard Darius Thompson scored 13 points and added five rebounds and four assists. Freshman guard Jake Ohmer had 14 points, and freshman forward Marek Nelson had 10 points as they were the other three of the Hilltoppers to reach double figures scoring.

WKU rolled through the first half, leading the Colonels 62-32 at halftime, thanks in part to a long 25-2 run. Nicholls struggled to get anything going at all, aside from their leading scorer Roddy Peters, who had 16 in the first 20 minutes of play.

“In the first half I thought we were about as efficient as could be,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We shot almost 70 percent, took care of the ball pretty well.”

Hollingsworth’s big day started early on as he scored 18 points on a perfect 8-8 shooting from the field in the first half. He also had four rebounds and four assists.

In the second half the Nicholls full court press began to wear on WKU. The Hilltoppers committed 10 turnovers in each half, thanks in large part to the press. It helped Nicholls rally and cut the lead to 10 points. Nicholls outscored WKU 54-38 in the second half, but it was too little too late, and WKU hit three straight field goals to close the game and seal a 14-point win.

“We got tired. Those three guards having to attack that pressure all night long, it makes you make some turnovers, I understand that.” Stansbury said of playing against the press. “We’ve got to be tough enough to fight through it.”

That press also caused foul trouble for Nicholls, as they had two players foul out, and four players finished with four fouls. But the Hilltoppers struggled to convert on those foul opportunities. The Hilltoppers struggled all game, making just 57.8 percent for the evening. But the issue was at its worst in the second half, when WKU went 15-30 from the line.

WKU also had to withstand a huge night from Nicholls’ Roddy Peters, a junior who was a five-star transfer. Peters dropped 34 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and recorded six assists.

With their opening home stand over, the Hilltoppers will head to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, Bahamas with a 2-1 record. Their first of three games will be against Villanova on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

“Villanova is put together as good as anybody in the country,” Stansbury said. “It won’t be easy, but again we’ve got to have focus for 40 minutes no matter who we play.”



Reporter Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 859-760-0198 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall.