Hilltoppers rout Brescia in final non-conference game

Freshman guard Marlon Hunter (3) heads towards the hoop during the game against Campbellsville University at Diddle Arena, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Hunter finished the game with four points and five rebounds. Matt Lunsford/HERALD 

John Reecer

On Monday night, the WKU men’s basketball team defeated Brescia University 93-66 in their last game before Conference USA play to improve to 8-5 on the season.

This victory marks the Hilltoppers’ ninth-straight home win, their longest home winning streak since winning 12 in a row at Diddle Arena from Jan. 21st, 2011 to Dec. 29th, 2012.

While the Hilltoppers walked away with a blowout victory over a team from the NAIA division, WKU lead by only six points at halftime.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “The one thing you do every time you step on the floor is that you compete no matter who you are playing. We had some guys who did that, but collectively we did not compete in the first half.”

The lack of effort for the Hilltoppers in the first half showed most on the defensive side of the floor as Brescia shot 51 percent from the field and 71 percent from three-point range.

While WKU managed to score 45 points in the half, the Bearcats turned the ball over on 11 different possessions and still succeeded in scoring enough points to be in the game.

“In the first half our effort was awful,” junior forward Ben Lawson said. “We were complacent and not ready for the game and it showed with the score. It was just embarrassing.”

Despite a lethargic first half, WKU managed to come out of halftime with a different attitude. The Hilltoppers used a key 12-0 run starting at the 16:42 mark, and they would go on to outscore Brescia 48-27 in the half.

WKU managed to fuel their run by tightening up their defensive effort as they notched a season-high 13 steals in the contest. Six of the steals came from freshman guard Marlon Hunter who tallied a career high in the category. He also scored a career-high 13 points on the night as well.

“Marlon can make things happen on the defensive side of the floor,” Harper said. “He plays hard and we are just trying to make him more disciplined on that side of the floor. He has a bright future.”

Junior forwards Anton Waters and Ben Lawson also enjoyed career nights as Waters notched season highs in points (9) and rebounds (7) while Lawson tied a career-high in blocks with six. Lawson also tallied nine points and six rebounds.

“If Anton makes a couple more free throws, he has a monster game,” Harper said. “He was our best player in practice the past couple of days and he carried it over to the game.”

Senior guard Aaron Cosby scored a game-high 20 points for the Hilltoppers as he hit six three-pointers while also adding four rebounds and four assists.

Sophomore forward Justin Johnson finished with 15 points and eight rebounds in the game as he has notched double-digits in scoring in all but one contest this season. He also shot 7-of-9 from the field, marking the sixth time this season the sophomore has shot over 70 percent from the field.

“Hopefully for the next couple of months heading into conference play we can be the team that showed up in the second half tonight,” Lawson said.

Up next for the Hilltoppers is their first conference matchup as they travel to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd (4-9) Sunday at 12:00 P.M. (CT).