Hilltoppers defeat Sycamores in Diddle

WKU’s forward Justin Johnson (23) dunks the ball during the Hilltopper’s 86-84 win over Eastern Kentucky University on Tuesday at Diddle Arena.

Matthew Stewart

After coming off a road loss to No. 12 ranked Xavier, Head Coach Ray Harper and company were looking to get back in the win column with a victory over Indiana State. The Hilltoppers accomplished this with a 75-62 victory over the Sycamores on Sunday afternoon. 

The first half opened slowly with neither team getting much offense going as the Hilltoppers held a small 4-2 lead over the Sycamores five minutes into the matchup.   

Things started to turn around for the Hilltoppers as they went on an 11-7 run which was sparked by two quick baskets from junior forward Ben Lawson. WKU then went up 15-9 with 10:35 remaining in the first.

Indiana State battled their way back into the game as the Hilltoppers struggled to keep up with the transition offense of the Sycamores. WKU saw their opponent go on an 11-6 run as their lead diminished to one point.

WKU would finish the first half strong as their lead grew to 37-30 on a three pointer from junior guard Chris Harrison-Docks with 11 seconds remaining in the period.

WKU came out of halftime firing on all cylinders. Freshman guard Marlon Hunter, who received his first career start in the game, started the half with a layup for the Hilltoppers.

Hunter enjoyed a nice outing in his first start. The freshman came away with 11 points and six rebounds.

“I thought Marlon Hunter gave us a lift on the defensive side with his intensity, which is what we expect from him,” Harper said.

After Hunter’s layup, the Hilltoppers never looked back. The defense would hold the Sycamores from scoring for a significant length of time, enabling WKU to jump ahead to a comfortable margin.

“We were really good in the second half defensively getting into the gaps due to our intensity on that end of the floor,” sophomore forward Justin Johnson said.

Several Hilltoppers added to a 15-point scoring run in a four minute stretch, extending their lead to 50-35 with 13:49 left in the second half.

The Hilltoppers were able to control their lead and won the game without any sizable comeback from Indiana State.

Johnson shot 91 percent from the field on 10-11 shooting to lead the Hilltoppers in scoring. The sophomore standout recorded another double-double on the season as he notched a new career high in points. He scored 24 while also grabbing 10 rebounds.

Harrison-Docks went 3-5 from behind the arc and finished with 15 points and two assists.

The Hilltoppers will be back in action Wednesday night in E. A. Diddle Arena to take on Alabama A&M at 8:00 p.m.

“We were hoping we had a great game right in between this and Louisville to get us a win, but they got a really good basketball team. Athletically and talent wise they are as gifted as any team that has been in Diddle this year,” Harper said.