Snipes, Johnson push Tops past Stony Brook

WKU’s forward Justin Johnson (23) makes a jump shot as Stony Brook University’s forward Tyrell Sturdivant (12) attempts to defend during the Hilltopper’s 67-66 win Saturday at Diddle Arena.

Matthew Stewart

The Seawolves of Stony Brook and the Hilltoppers both came in to Diddle Arena on Saturday hungry to get back on track. WKU lost on the road to Belmont and Stony Brook fell to the 17th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores Thursday night in Nashville. 

The starting lineup for WKU remained similar to the squad who faced Belmont, although junior forward Anton Waters got his first start in a Hilltopper jersey. Waters scored the first points of the game. The Topper offense got out to a good start with their ball movement, but fouls once again kept WKU’s opponent in the game. 

Sophomore forward Justin Johnson would prove to be the spark that WKU would need. In the first half Johnson almost had a double-double with 15 points and eight rebounds. The team continued to look for Johnson as he continued to finish inside. Johnson had three straight baskets to put the Tops ahead 24-21 in the first half. WKU would continue with solid play to go up by eight. Stony Brook would go on a 5-0 run to bring them within three (36-33) with 42 seconds left in the first half. 

“We went to (Justin) a lot today,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “It was Nigel (Snipes) or Justin Johnson that was going to be our first option.”

WKU managed to maintain the lead heading in to half. The Toppers were up 31-26. Nigel Snipes had eight points in the first to go along with a pair of crucial three pointers that kept the Hilltopper advantage.

“I got a text the other night said he (Snipes) was over (in Diddle) at 2:30 in the morning working out and getting shots up, that’s who he is, most committed kid I have coached in a long time,” Harper said. 

The Toppers would come out of the half going back to business, continuing to feed the ball to Johnson and Snipes. 

The Toppers were up by six with seven minutes left to go in the game.

Johnson finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds to grab another double- double. 

The Seawolves were not ready to give up.  The score was 67-66 with one minute remaining in the contest.

At the line with seconds remaining, Stony Brook was unable to connect on two free throw attempts. WKU would rebound the ball and freshman guard Chris McNeal would be fouled with 3.2 seconds remaining. McNeal would miss the free throw, but tight defense from the Hilltoppers would seal the deal for a 67-66 WKU victory.

The Hilltopper basketball team will look to build off their win as they head to Florida to take part in the Gulf Coast Showcase.

They are set to take the court with Drake on Monday for a rematch of the 2008 first round NCAA tournament game where Ty Rogers hit “the shot” that went down as one of the most memorable moments of the tournament that year. 

 “It’s a great tournament and another great opportunity,” said Harper.