WKU upsets No. 18 Purdue for first top 25 win under Stansbury

battle for atlantis

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU pulled off a 77-73 upset over No. 18 Purdue in the consolation round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

This was WKU’s first win over a Power 5 conference opponent since a regular season win over Ole Miss on Dec. 13, 2014.

It was the Hilltoppers’ first win over a ranked team since defeating No. 25 Old Dominion in 2015. This was the team’s first top 25 win under Rick Stansbury. It was the second top 25 team that the Hilltoppers had played in the last two days, as they lost to No. 5 Villanova on Wednesday.

“This is probably the biggest win of my career so far,” senior forward Justin Johnson said afterwards. “This team’s deserving of one like that.”

With just eight active players, WKU led the Boilermakers for nearly 39 minutes.

WKU got significant contributions from senior Justin Johnson, who had 17 points and nine rebounds, freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth, who had 16 points, six rebounds and three assists, and freshman guard Jake Ohmer, who had 15 points and shot 5-6 from the field (3-3 from 3-point range).

“Ohmer’s the difference,” said Purdue head coach Matt Painter. “I told our guys, I said ‘do not leave him. Do not let him shoot. He averaged 29 points in high school.’”

WKU was blistering hot to start the game, as they shot 53 percent from the field in the first half. Their percentage from 3-point range was even better, as they shot 62.5 percent from deep. The defense stifled Purdue into shooting a subpar 32 percent, and also forced seven turnovers. This all helped them to dominate the first half, leading for 18:41 of the first 20 minutes and taking a 42-31 lead into the half.

Purdue made it tough on WKU late, as they cut the lead to one possession with just seconds remaining. But WKU put up a much better performance from the free throw line in the second half, making 11-13 from the charity stripe to help fend off the Boilermakers. Johnson had the clutch play of the evening with a driving bucket with 21 seconds to play that put WKU up five points.

“I looked up at the shot clock, and we had about seven seconds left,” Johnson said. “Somebody had to make a play. I went for the dribble hand-off and they denied it, so I put the ball on the floor, took it to the rack and made a play. You have to make something happen there.”

WKU got a huge second half effort from Johnson, who had eight points and three rebounds in the second half. The Hilltoppers also got a strong contribution from senior guard Darius Thompson, who had eight second half points as well.

WKU head coach Rick Stansbury was happy with what his team did and had praise for Purdue, validating the importance of WKU’s big win.

“I thought we controlled the flow of the game defensively and offensively,” Stansbury said. “I couldn’t have asked more from effort. Purdue’s going to be – who knows, they could be a Final Four team. They’re that good.”

WKU is set to play the winner of No. 2 Arizona vs. Southern Methodist at 6 p.m. CT on Friday.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said that WKU had not won a Power 5 game since 2008. The Hilltoppers defeated SEC opponent Ole Miss in December of 2014.