Shorthanded Hilltoppers beat Samford in first exhibition

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU men’s basketball cruised to a 78-64 win over Samford in their season-opening exhibition on Sunday. 

The Hilltoppers got the job done despite having just seven active players. Those seven made the most of their opportunities, as five players scored in double figures, four players played 30 minutes or more and three players recorded double-doubles.

“We made a lot of mistakes, but I thought we had a great effort,” said head coach Rick Stansbury. “And as long as we have great effort, we’ll live with those mistakes and get better from them.”

The team shot 57 percent from the field, and the offense was led by freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth, who had 19 points on 7-9 shooting from the field and 4-4 shooting from the free throw line. Hollingsworth added to his points total by dishing three assists and grabbing three rebounds in 39 minutes. 

Seniors Dwight Coleby, Justin Johnson and Darius Thompson all had double-doubles. Coleby had 10 points, all of which came from the free throw line, and 15 rebounds. He also had six fouls, but was allowed to continue playing because it was an exhibition. Johnson had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Thompson had 11 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. 

“When we really went small and got another guard out there, (Thompson) kind of became a four guy,” Stansbury said. “He really became effective then. I thought he got much more aggressive. Created a lot of plays.”

Freshman guard Jake Ohmer was also in the double figures club as he scored 12 points, and tacked on four assists and two rebounds. He’s coming off a sprained ankle, and Stansbury said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play in this game. 

WKU started off slow as Samford led for most of the first half, but WKU managed to jump in front just before halftime and took a 33-32 lead into the locker room. Samford jumped back in front early in the second half, but the Hilltoppers caught fire late, shooting over 65 percent in the second half and holding a double-digit lead down the stretch. 

WKU shot just 60 percent from the free throw line (21-35), but still managed to outdo Samford, as the Bulldogs shot just 46 percent from the charity stripe. The 35 free throws were a remarkably high total, as the team reached that number just once last season when they attempted 37 against North Carolina A&T. WKU also struggled with turnovers, as they gave it up 23 times. But they still managed to outscore Samford in points off turnovers, 26-16. WKU also had 12 steals, more than they had in any single game last season. WKU had a major advantage in the paint, doubling Samford’s scoring on the inside, 40-20. 

Samford was led offensively by senior forward Alex Thompson, who had 18 points, and added on four rebounds. The Bulldogs were a 20-win team last season, finishing the year 20-16. 

WKU will continue its exhibition slate with an exhibition against Campbellsville on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena. It’ll be the second of three exhibitions before the regular season begins.