Hilltoppers can’t put Old Dominion away as the Monarchs snap WKU’s win streak

Redshirt senior guard Que Johnson (32) shoots during WKU’s 103-97 double-overtime win against Kentucky Wesleyan on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, at Diddle Arena.

Matthew Stewart

After riding a five-game win streak, the Toppers suffered their first loss since Saturday Dec. 17 at Detroit when WKU fell to Old Dominion by a final score of 79-67.

Head Coach Rick Stansbury and company are now 9-8 on the season and 3-1 in conference play. Old Dominion improved to 10-6 with the win over the Tops.

The Toppers had a solid first-half performance as they were up by four heading into the half 35-31. The Monarchs went back and forth with the Tops for most of the first half.

Senior guard Que Johnson led the way in the first half with 14 points. The Washington State transfer finished as the game’s leading scorer with 24 points.

“I just go with the flow,” Johnson said. “If I’m open I just shoot, it’s just a matter of making or missing.”

The second half was a different story for the Tops as they went up by as many as 11 points with just over 15 minutes to play. Then ODU turned the page and went on a major run. The Monarch defense kept the Hilltoppers from scoring for 10 minutes. 

“Give Old Dominion credit, in the second half we kinda separated a little bit,” Stansbury said. “We went up 11. The last 13, 14 minutes of that game, they were tougher than we were. They made those effort plays. I thought they were a better team that second half.”

The Tops were unable to build on their double-digit lead and put the game in the bag.

“When you go up 11 you gotta be tough enough as a team offensively and defensively to put a foot on somebody’s throat and keep it there and we didn’t do it,” Stansbury said. “I thought our demeanor changed, thought we got a little bit relaxed. That 11 points disappeared in a hurry.”

The Monarchs did all the right things in the second half. They played good defense, hit their shots and out-rebounded WKU 42-30 over the course of the contest.

“They out-rebounded us 12,” Stansbury said. “It’s always a toughness category, first thing I look at and they beat us there.”

The Toppers were able to put together five wins in a row and suffered a tough loss to the Monarchs, but the coaches will have their opportunity to teach.

“We’re gonna be learning all year long but there’ll never be excuses,” Stansbury said. “When you get 11 you gotta be tough enough to put your foot on somebody’s throat.”

The veteran players don’t like to lose but they know that they can learn from every situation and are looking ahead.

“We just have to stick together and keep working hard when it comes game time,” Johnson said.

Stansbury also noted that his team can’t miss as many free throws as they did. WKU shot 18-28 from the charity stripe.

“We can’t leave that many free throws at that line,” Stansbury said. “We’re just not good enough to overcome that consistently.”

Justin Johnson nearly completed a double-double performance with 17 points on 6-9 from the floor and nine boards. Senior guard Pancake Thomas ended his night with 14 points. Justin Johnson, Que Johnson and Thomas were the only Toppers in double figures.

WKU will be back in action and looking to get back to its winning ways next Thursday night as the Toppers take on the University of Alabama Birmingham. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in Birmingham.