WKU survives season opener against Austin Peay, 77-70

Senior guard T.J. Price (52) drives past Austin Peay’s Chris Horton (5) and Khalil Davis (11) during the second half of WKU’s Nov. 15 game against the Governors. Price led all scorers with 22 points and was a perfect 4-4 from three-point range as WKU defeated APSU 77-70. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

Western Kentucky snapped a three game opening-day losing streak with a 77-70 win over Austin Peay in Diddle Arena Saturday.

Senior guard T.J. Price led all scorers with 22 points and helped the Hilltoppers (1-0) jump out to an early lead despite foul trouble. He shot 4-for-4 from three-point range and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.

“The one guy that I felt like we had to have on the floor was T.J.,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “The way he was playing and everyone else was, we could make some changes and see who was the best player tonight.”

Senior guard Trency Jackson and sophomore guard Chris Harrison-Docks were the only other Hilltoppers to reach double-digit points Saturday afternoon as Jackson recorded 14 while Docks finished with 13.

“I’m just taking advantage of whatever the defense gives me,” Price said. “I’m the leading scorer now but probably the next game we will have Trency be our leading scorer or Chris be our leading scorer. We are not trying to be too selfish as one about scoring points we are just trying to get the win.”

WKU had 12 of its 14 players log minutes against Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley Conference. George Fant, Jackson and Price all received two fouls in the first half of play. Fant finished the night with six points, five rebounds and two assists. 

Freshman forward Rob Marberry was one of the bright spots for WKU as he played 18 minutes in his first game as a Hilltopper and scored seven points and three rebounds. Marberry, who also went 3-for-8 at the free throw line, is a prime example of the depth that WKU possess this season.

“We’re still trying to figure some things out,” Harper said. “If you asked me last night if Rob was going to play 18 minutes I would have told you you were crazy. Sometimes it’s about the flow of the game, sometimes it’s about foul trouble, sometimes it’s about focus and it was obvious we were trying to find some right combinations.”

“It was a great experience,” Marberry said. “We just have to play a little harder on the defensive side, we had a lot of silly foul we shouldn’t have.”

Four Austin Peay players scored double-digit points including Chris Horton who scored a team high 15 points, four rebounds and four blocks.

The Hilltoppers used a 13-2 run in the first half to gain their largest lead of the game at 38-28 with 2:19 remaining. After the Governors tied the score at 47, WKU used a 13-4 run with 14:31 remaining in the game to take a 60-51 lead. Austin Peay came within one possession once after that mark.

WKU guards accounted for 56 of the 77 points scored by the Hilltoppers. It wasn’t until the final two minutes when Fant made a presence in the game.

“We tried to get it in as much as possible into the inside,” Price said. “We just weren’t finding the right angles, we really didn’t want to turn over the ball forcing too much. Towards the end we started giving it to George (Fant) more and it was more open because they were focused on us and when he did that he made some good plays.

WKU will travel to Minnesota on Tuesday to open the 2014 NIT Season Tip-Off event. The Golden Gophers fell Friday night 81-68 to Louisville 81-68.