Foul trouble plagues Hilltoppers in defeat to Belmont

Western Kentucky’s Fredrick Edmond (25) puts up a shot amid two Kentucky Wesleyan defenders during Friday’s game at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Hilltoppers won the homecoming game 75-68. Nick Wagner/HERALD

John Reecer

An inexperienced Hilltopper squad managed to hang with a veteran Belmont team Wednesday night, but WKU fell to the Bruins by a score of 90-85.  

The Hilltoppers managed to control the game for most of the first half. However, nagging foul trouble and a three-point barrage from the Bruins put WKU in a deficit which they failed to come back from despite a second-half rally.

“We got ourselves in a hole right before half time,” junior guard Chris Harrison-Docks said. “Sometimes you just can’t come back from it.”

One reason why the Hilltoppers did not fight their way back to a lead is because of significant foul trouble for most of the post players. Sophomore forward Justin Johnson, senior forward Ben Lawson and senior forward Nigel Snipes all struggled with fouls on the evening as they all eventually fouled out of the game.

“We found out a lot about this team tonight,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “We fought hard and we had a game plan, but none of that included having Nigel, Ben or Justin out.”

Despite WKU’s foul troubles, the Hilltoppers still managed to out-rebound a tough Belmont team on the road. WKU also managed to shoot a higher percentage from behind the arc while also receiving more points from their bench than the Bruins did.

“Their fans were crazy and they tried to really get in our heads,” freshman Chris McNeal said. “We just tried to keep our composure, and I think we played very well for our first road game.”

Harrison-Docks and junior guard Fredrick Edmond lead the Hilltoppers with their strong play on the evening. Harrison-Docks lead WKU in scoring with 19 points as Edmond turned in a double-double. He scored 16 points while adding 10 rebounds and three assists.

At least six different players scored at least seven points in the game for WKU as the Hilltoppers scored least 85 points for their second consecutive game. The problem, however, is that they gave up 90 points to a team that is not even from a power conference.

“It’s not any secret that we are a work in progress defensively,” assistant coach David Boyd said. “However, we played well enough on offense that Belmont is talking about their defense right now just like we are.”

While there may not be such a thing as a “moral victory” for the Hilltoppers, WKU still managed to stay with a veteran team that is coming off of two-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. 

“We know we have a lot to improve on,” Coach Boyd said. “However, the ceiling for this basketball team is ridiculously high if we keep respecting the process of getting better which we have done to this point.”

WKU will be back in action Saturday at noon in Diddle Arena where they will take on a different kind of talented team in the form of Stony Brook University.

 “If we could choose an absolute opposite matchup in terms of Belmont to Stony Brook we have done it,’ Coach Boyd said. “They play tough Northeast basketball and have one best post players in the country. They also return pretty much every starter from last year’s team. Unlike Belmont they like to really pound the ball and not shoot as much.”