WKU downs Pikeville, 105-84, in exhibition

Sophomore forward Ben Lawson (14) goes for a layup over teammate Alexsej Rostov (20) during the men’s scrimmage at Hilltopper Hysteria on Oct. 18 at Diddle Arena. Lawson scored 19 points as the White Team fell to the Red Team 43-41. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

The WKU men’s basketball team played its first and only exhibition game of the 2014-15 season Monday night against Pikeville (KY), and defeated the Bears 105-84 thanks in part to the performances of senior guard T.J. Price, redshirt senior guard Trency Jackson and freshman forward Justin Johnson.

Price began his final season as a Hilltopper in impressive fashion in Monday’s exhibition, leading all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting with eight assists. Price comes into the season ranked 25th on WKU’s all-time scoring list.

Jackson closely followed Price’s game with an impressive performance of his own. The redshirt senior recorded 22 points on 75 percent shooting with six assists and zero turnovers. Jackson also had the long ball going as he was three-for-three from three-point range.

“He’s a guy that can score in a lot of different ways,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “I said from the beginning I thought he probably had the best offseason of anyone on the team…I think you got a glimpse tonight of the dividends that it’s going to pay over the course of the season.”

Freshman forward Justin Johnson recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. The newcomer from Hazard, Kentucky entered the game in the first half off the bench and proceeded to score three straight baskets.

“I want to bring energy in off the bench and guys like T.J. (Price) and George (Fant) they help me, it’s a lot easier to fit into the system,” Johnson said. “I had a couple mishaps out there and they would point me in the right direction and help me out, so I appreciate having them out on the court.”

WKU totaled 24 assists on the night while shooting 58.2 percent for the game. After the game, Price was asked which stat coach Harper would be happier about – points or assists.

“Assists. Defiantly assists,” Price said. “We’re not going to be selfish on this team. If we see our next teammate open and we have a good shot, we are going to turn down the good shot for a great shot.”

WKU started the game with efficiency. A first-half field goal percentage of 61.8 percent allowed the Hilltoppers to hold a 53-44 halftime lead before pulling away in the second half.

The defense held Pikeville’s K.K. Simmons, who scored 58 total points against Kentucky and Tennessee in exhibitions this month, to 12 points on the night.

WKU also tallied 24 second-chance points compared to Pikeville’s eight. WKU held the advantage in points in the paint, 54-30.

WKU’s first regular season game will be played Saturday at Diddle Arena against Austin Peay at 4 p.m.