WKU basketball opens season Saturday vs. Austin Peay

Freshman guard DJ Clayton dunks during the slam dunk contest at Hilltopper Hysteria on Oct. 18 at Diddle Arena. The event featured player introductions for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, scrimmages, a three-point contest and a slam dunk contest. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

WKU basketball is gearing up for its 2014-15 season opener with Austin Peay Saturday at 4 p.m. following its 105-84 handling of Pikeville on Monday night.

The Hilltoppers belted out a 7-0 run to end the first half with a 53-44 lead before extending it to 16 in the first five and a half minutes of the second half.

Senior guard T.J. Price tallied a game-high 23 points to go along with eight assists. Redshirt senior guard Trency Jackson netted 22 on 9-of-12 shooting and freshman forward Justin Johnson added 18 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.

“We’re ready. We are going to take this week and just mainly focus on defense,” Price said after Monday’s game. “We put up 105 points tonight, so we aren’t really worried about the offensive side…Once we get our defense down, we’re going to be ready.”

Austin Peay is coming off two exhibition victories against Webster University and Bryan College by a combined average of 22.5 points per game. The Governors shot just 33.3 percent from 3-point range and 54.5 percent from the free throw line in their narrow 63-52 win over Bryan College.

The Hilltoppers shot 58.2 percent from the field, 47.6 percent from downtown and 65.4 percent from the free-throw stripe in its exhibition win over Pikeville.

“This time of year your kids are anxious to see different opponents other than themselves, that’s why it was good tonight to play a team like Pikeville,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “We missed a lot of easy shots that hopefully going forward we will make. We scored 105 — I feel like we should have scored 118.

“I like us playing unselfish, shots aren’t always going to go down and we have to get better at the defensive end, so when those shots aren’t going down, we can still win games.”

WKU leads the all-time series with Austin Peay 38-14, including the last meeting between the two schools in 2012 that ended in a 74-54 Hilltopper win.

Senior guard Travis Betran will be the biggest test for WKU’s defense. The 6-foot-3-inch guard was named to the All-OVC Team a season ago and is expected to contend for the conference’s scoring title this season.

Betran (15.9 points per game) is one of three returning players for Austin Peay who averaged double-digit points last year. The others include Chris Horton, a 6-foot-8-inch sophomore guard who blocked 92 shots last year, and senior forward Will Triggs, who was also selected to the All-OVC Team.