Hilltoppers defeat Campbellsville in first exhibition

Redshirt senior guard Pancake Thomas (12) jumps over the defense to make a shot during the men’s basketball 87-79 victory over Campbellsville University at Diddle Arena on Tuesday Nov. 1. Thomas scored 17 of the Topper’s 87 points. Kathryn Ziesig/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

It’s a new year, new coach and a new look for the Hilltopper basketball team. Tuesday night, fans saw the team defeat Campbellsville University 87-79 in the Toppers’ first game of the year.

The Tops started the game off with a big presence on the inside. Senior forward Ben Lawson put up six of the first eight points for the Tops.

Lawson finished with 12 points, going four for four from the field and knocking down all four free throw attempts. Ben also finished with six rebounds, two blocks and one steal in 20 minutes on the court.


Lawson’s teammates and Stansbury made it known he will be an impact player this season after Lawson averaged five points and three rebounds a game last year.

“Ben is gonna be a factor all year long,” Head Coach Rick Stansbury said. “He was a factor tonight. He has gotta continue to make those effort plays. I’m pleased with Ben. Ben has done a good job for us. You saw a lot of good things and he is getting better.”

“He [Lawson] was aggressive, finished around the rim, made free throws, blocked some shots and protected the rim,” junior forward Justin Johnson said.

The team has been playing against only each other up until this point and hasn’t had the opportunity to get an offensive flow on the court until now.

“I’m just glad that one’s over cause you get all the jitters out,” redshirt senior guard Pancake Thomas said. “This is our first time playing against somebody else. I’m just glad we got that out of the way; it’s only up from here.”

Redshirt senior guard Junior Lomomba has been out of practice for the past two weeks, but he got the start at point guard Tuesday night and ran the Topper offense.

The newly positioned point guard showcased his court vision and ability to move the ball up the court in a timely manner, according to his teammates.

“Junior knows everyone’s role,” Justin Johnson said. “He gets us in our sets and everything. He does a really good job leading this team.”

“Overall, I thought he [Lomomba] did okay,” Stansbury said. “Just his experience out there, his toughness –– knowing what happens in the game a little bit. It’s the first time in his career he has ever played point guard ever. So I was pleased with some things. He has a lot more to give.”

Lomomba put in 11 points and three assists to go along with five rebounds.

The fans also got their first look at sophomore transfer forward Willie Carmichael. He was one of two Topper players with a double-double performance in the victory.

Carmichael went nine of 10 from the charity stripe and finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

“Willie Carmichael never played a game out in the perimeter in his life,” Stansbury said. “Willie played center at Tennessee. He played with great effort. Look at the rebounding column, that’s the effort column. He has 13 rebounds.”

“Willie is like a wild stallion right now,” Stansbury continued. “He just runs around, quick and just flies around. Can’t put a saddle on him very well yet. He’s got a lot of quickness and a lot of energy. The more experience he gets he will see things start happening a little bit.”

Justin Johnson led the way for the Tops offensively with 22 points along with 12 rebounds. The forward showed how his game has expanded as he went two for three from three point range.

“He’s gonna be a guy I can move around,” Stansbury said. “I have total confidence in him shooting the three –– shoots it with a lot of confidence, expanded his game. Justin has been really good for us, his experience out there.”

The Tops had five players finish in double figures in their first contest. Lawson with 12, Carmichael and Lomomba with 11, Thomas had 17 and Justin Johnson with 22.

The offense had the opportunity to spread the scoring duties with Stansbury’s motion offense. The new coach has expressed that his players will have freedom on offense to make plays.

“We need those guys in double figures every night,” Stansbury said. “There won’t be many nights Que Johnson isn’t in double figures. Foul trouble never let him get going. We got five or six guys that can score double figures and we need them to.”

Saturday, the Toppers will be back in action in Diddle Arena as they take on Kentucky Wesleyan College in their second exhibition of the season.

KWC is an NCAA Division II school that has won eight national championships in the program’s storied history. The team is coached by Happy Osborne who has also won championships at Georgetown College.

The Panthers will be taking on the Louisville Cardinals on Thursday, Nov. 3, at the KFC Yum Center before heading to Diddle Arena for an 8 p.m. showdown with the Tops Saturday night.

“We’ll get better before the next game,” Stansbury said. “We are gonna have to [because] Kentucky Wesleyan will be a better team.”

Reporter Matthew Stewart can be reached at 270-745-6281 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @MES_WKU22.