Hilltoppers ready to take on Bruins in Nashville

WKU sophomore forward Justin Johnson (23) puts up a shot during the opening game of the season at Diddle Arena on Nov. 14. Hilltoppers beat the Campbellsville Tigers 97-77. KATIE ROBERTS/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

The WKU men’s basketball team opened regular season play Saturday night with a win against Campbellsville University.

Wednesday night in Nashville, the Hilltoppers will face a more familiar opponent: Belmont.

The Bruins opened their season on the road against Marquette and came away with an 83-80 win. 

The Toppers will hope to get revenge against Belmont for last season’s one-point loss at Diddle Arena.

The Bruins are returning four of their five starters from last year, and Head Coach Ray Harper is stressing the importance of playing smart.

“The one thing [Belmont] will not do is they will not beat themselves. We will have to go in there Wednesday night and beat them,” Harper said. “By that I mean they won’t make silly turnovers.”

In the Bruins’ win against Marquette, junior Evan Bradds led a group of four players in double figures with a career-high matching 24 points. Bradds also added nine rebounds and drew a game-sealing charge late in the game.

“If you have breakdowns on the defensive end, guys not knowing when to rotate and those type of things, they’ll make you pay,” Harper said. “We have a few days here to really lock in and try to get prepared for them.”

Harper said the team has been preparing for Belmont since before the game against Campbellsville.

“Without talking to our guys about it, we spent two or three days this week working on Belmont,” Harper said. “We talked to them about … what [they were] going to see Saturday night against Campbellsville, and to an extent it was, but a lot of it was, ‘This is what you’re going to see when you play Belmont,’ and how we wanted to defend on certain things.”

On top of the preparations in practice, Harper also was pleased with the production he saw from sophomore forward Justin Johnson in the season opener.

Johnson had 16 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and one steal.

“The first exhibition we played, we talked about how much more we needed from (Johnson),” Harper said. “… If he is capable of 16 and 15 a night, we will have a heck of a year.”

The game against Belmont is set to start at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Nashville at the Curb Event Center.