Tops tested in Diddle

With a hand in his face, Western Kentucky’s Chris Harrison-Docks (51) hits a 3-pointer past Kentucky Wesleyan’s Jordan Jacks’ (5) defense during Friday’s game at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Hilltoppers won the homecoming game 75-68. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

Head Coach Ray Harper said after Monday night’s game against Lindsey Wilson that he wanted his squad to get tested before the start of the regular season.

“The one thing we wanted to do was really challenge these guys one time before we got into the regular season,” Harper said.

That is what happened Friday night in Diddle Arena.

Harper led his team against his former team and alma mater, Kentucky Wesleyan College, with whom he held a 242-45 win-loss record and claimed two Division II national championships.

“One of my closest fiends is the president there. I spent a lot of time there,” Harper said.

The Division II powerhouse has won eight national championships in its storied history.

Western struggled early in the early stages of the game, getting off to a slow start.

While shooting 3- 11 from the floor as a team six and a half minutes in to the first half, the Toppers were down eight.

“We were down eight in the first half, and I wasn’t taking a time out. They were going to have to play through it. It could have got to 15 or 20,” Harper said. “I wanted to see how they responded, and they responded.”

Sophomore forward Justin Johnson sparked WKU with solid physical play down low allowed Justin to be the games leading scorer with eight points and two early rebounds with 6:24 left in he first half.

“That’s a really good team. That was a game that we prepared for big time. We got tested tonight,” Johnson said.

The Panthers made moving the ball around difficult for WKU, with five steals in the first 17 minutes of the game.

Redshirt junior guard provided leadership for the Hilltoppers when they struggled offensively.

“It’s for a young team to get sped up when you get down, what I realized is that last year we were kind of a second half team,” said Harrison-Docks. “It’s one play at a time, that’s what I kept telling the guys that it’s one play at a time, one stop at a time, one good possession at a time, you keep doing that it wears a team down and that’s what we were able to do.”

Johnson was the leading scorer in the first with 10 points and Junior Ben Lawson was holding things down in the low post with three crucial blocks.

“Our potential is so great, our team learns quickly,” said Harrison-Docks.

Coming out of the half Kentucky Wesleyan used their size to take a 44-40 advantage with 15 minutes remaining.  

WKU was able to tie up the game at 47 at the 11:19 mark in the second half.

Junior JUCO transfer guard Fredrick Edmond, was facilitating the ball well with five assists.

“He’s (Edmond) just touching the surface. I have had a lot of guys like him, he’s so talented. He’s so coachable, he wants to get better’” Harper said. “I’ve got a lot of friends and I tell them all the time you better keep an eye on this one because he’s got a chance.”

Getting down to the final minutes of play WKU began to pull away. With a 63-54 lead the Tops had to hold the Panthers at bay.

Harper and company walked away with a win with a final score of 75-68.

Harrison-Docks would lead the team in scoring with 21 points three rebounds and four assists. Edmond had 13 points, two rebounds and six assists. Johnson finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

“We could make it a bit easier by not turning the ball over so much,” said Harper.

The Toppers return to action in a date with Campbellsville in Diddle Arena as part of the Gulf Coast Showcase on Saturday, November 14th.