WKU earns contested victory against Detroit, 79-74

WKU’s head coach Ray Harper throws his arms up in celebration during the Hilltopper’s 86-84 win over Eastern Kentucky University on Tuesday at Diddle Arena.

By: Matthew Stewart

The Hilltopper basketball team (7-5) came away with a win late Tuesday night as they took down the Titans of Detroit (6-4) by a score of 79-74 in E. A Diddle Arena.

The victory is a much needed one as WKU only has one more non-conference game left before they start conference play. This game was also the Hilltoppers’ last match up before their Christmas break.

The Titans came in to Diddle Arena with a hot-shooting team from behind the arc. Detroit went 11 of 24 from three-point land while WKU shot five of 12 on the evening.

While the three-point disparity didn’t do the Hilltoppers any favors, WKU made up for it with a huge advantage at the free-throw line as they shot 22-29 from the charity stripe while the Titans shot just 9-12.

With solid ball movement from the guard positions, freshman guard Chris McNeal and graduate senior guard Aaron Cosby spread the floor well for WKU and kept them in the game. Cosby and McNeal would combine for 13 assists on the night.

With effective passing from both Hilltoppers, scoring opportunities opened up for other teammates as five WKU players scored in double digits. Cosby seemed to spark the offense early by taking good shots and having a perfect eye for the open man.

“I think that was Aaron’s best game since he put on a Hilltopper uniform,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “As far as an overall game defensively and passing the ball, he was the complete package tonight. He was the difference maker in this game.”

The Hilltoppers were down by three heading into the halftime break as Detroit lead 38-35. The Titans were outscored in the paint and outrebounded by WKU but their shooting gave them the advantage in the first half. Detroit was 40 percent from deep in the half while shooting 47 percent from the floor.

Sophomore forward Justin Johnson steadied the Hilltopper effort in the first half. Johnson nearly had a double-double in the period with nine points and seven rebounds. He would eventually turn out to be the game’s leader for both categories as he notched 17 points and 12 rebounds.  

Coming out of the break, WKU proved to be more energetic than in the first half. The Hilltoppers then took the lead on a clutch three pointer from senior forward Nigel Snipes to go up 61-58 with 11:39 left in the game.

After that basket, WKU would go on a long scoring run as they would lead by as many as nine points. The Titans wouldn’t score again until the 5:21 mark in the second half.

The Titans would fight back and take a late lead with 2:49 left at 69-67. A Johnson layup would tie the game at 69 and the advantage would stay with the Hilltoppers as McNeal put the contest away with important free-throws down the stretch.  

“We got defensive stops when we needed them down the stretch,” Johnson said.

Cosby and Johnson shared the title of leading scorer on the night with 17 points each while Cosby added six assists. McNeal finished with 10 points and seven assists.

Junior forward Ben Lawson played a big game on the defensive end of the floor as he blocked five shots and scored 10 points in the contest. Junior guard Fredrick Edmond finished with 14 points and five rebounds.

“Ben is getting better,” Coach Harper said. “I think that is two straight games he has really fought well in the post for us.”

WKU was without junior guard Chris Harrison-Docks in the game as he is currently indefinitely suspended from the Hilltopper basketball team. Coach Harper said the suspension is due to Harrison-Docks not meeting expected team standards.

“How long the suspension will be will be totally up to him,” Coach Harper said. “Will he be back next game, I don’t know. We are constantly preaching about being selfless and not selfish and that’s what is expected of our players.”

The Hilltoppers will return from their Christmas break on December 28th with a game against Brescia University at 7:00 P.M. (CT) in E. A. Diddle Arena.