Bearden stands out in WKU’s opening loss

Junior guard Lamonte Bearden (1), pushes through the defense of Missouri State Bears to gain possession of the ball on Friday, Nov. 10 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU fell to Missouri State in its season opener, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of production from redshirt junior guard Lamonte Bearden in his first action as a Hilltopper.

Bearden was the Hilltoppers’ top scorer on the night, as he dropped 24 points on 6 of 12 shooting from the field and 3 of 3 shooting from 3-point range. The team as a whole shot just 39 percent from the field, and 38 percent from 3-point range. Bearden also went 9-10 from the free throw line, and converted multiple and-one opportunities. Bearden also tacked on five rebounds, a block, a steal and an assist, doing a little bit of everything.

“Lamonte’s a huge playmaker, and it’s hard to stay in front of him,” senior guard Darius Thompson said of his teammate. “First game out there, scoring like he did, he really helps the team.”

Bearden is a transfer guard from Buffalo, where he was a standout for two years averaging 10.9 points on 40 percent shooting, 4.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Bearden was a part of Buffalo’s back-to-back Mid-American Conference Championships from 2015-2016, and averaged 13.5 points in two NCAA Tournament games over the last two seasons.

He was a key component of WKU’s comeback effort. The Hilltoppers went down 22 points within the first eight minutes of the game. Bearden helped the Hilltoppers outscore MSU 30-19 in the last 12 minutes of the first half, as they outscored MSU in the second half 46-40. If not for the 26-4 run to start the game, Bearden may have been the star of a double-digit WKU win.

“I just came out thinking about defense, didn’t know how the game was going to go, if I was going to score zero or 30,” Bearden said after his first game in a WKU jersey.

Bearden did not play in any of WKU’s exhibitions, as he was dealing with an ankle injury. He was a gametime decision for the season opener, and came off the bench early in the first half. As he gets back to full health and works in WKU’s system, the potential for his game — and his team’s game — will grow exponentially. With one assist and four turnovers, head coach Rick Stansbury said that Bearden didn’t even do what he does best.

“When we get some rhythm with him – I don’t know how much rhythm we had tonight, it was get it and go a little bit. He’d lower his head and go, but you better be able to stop him going,” Stansbury said. “He can score, but that’s not his main deal. He’ll get a bunch of points just because of his ability to get in that lane, but what he can really do is pass the basketball.”

But that rhythm isn’t something that Bearden’s worried about, as he says his focus is just on his team getting better.

“I’m just worried about us getting better, not my rhythm, just us getting better as a team,” Bearden said.

WKU will continue its season on Wednesday against Kentucky Wesleyan at 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena, and after his performance in game one, it’d be a surprise if Bearden isn’t in the starting lineup for game two.

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