Toppers see room for improvement in exhibition win

WKU junior forward George Fant attempts to recover a rebound during the exhibition game against Campbellsville at E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday, Nov. 2. 

Tyler Lashbrook

The Toppers got their first taste of competition outside of practice Saturday as WKU topped Campbellsville in an exhibition game at Diddle Arena.

WKU got the win 87-73 and is set to start the regular season next Tuesday at Wichita State.

The Toppers struggled to gain any moment against the scrappy Tigers, who refused to go away. WKU needed a late 11-0 run to secure the win.

Junior guard T.J. Price, who shot just 4-of-12, said that the Toppers still need a lot of work.

“Campbellsville’s no pushover, and that’s why we schedule them,” Price said. “We know they’re going to give us a good look at what we really needed.”

Junior forward Aaron Adeoye scored 14 points and snagged 10 rebounds off the bench in his first game in front of Topper fans. The transfer, who shot 4-of-9 from the field, said he hopes to earn more playing time as the season starts.

“I need to rebound, and that’s the way I’ll get playing time,” Adeoye said. “I know that — coach (Ray Harper) knows that. That’s really my job when I go in.”

Adeoye stayed on the court in the game’s final moments, in part because he is a solid free throw shooter for a big man — he knocked down six of his nine attempts at the line Saturday.

Harper went to a four-guard lineup late in Saturday’s game. He said that lineup could handle pressure and shoot free throws.

“Unfortunately, if you can’t make free throws, you can’t play in the last four minutes of a game,” Harper said. “This year, it’s going to be even more of a factor because people are going to shooting more free throws. If I wanted to play a lot of minutes, I’d make sure I’m in here getting a lot of free-throws up.”

Harper was referring to the NCAA’s rule adjustment toward how players can defend a player with the ball.

Per NCAA, referees are to look for players placing and keeping a hand on their opponent, players putting two hands on an opponent, jabbing of the hand or forearm on an opponent and using an arm bar to “impede the progress of the dribbler.”

Those rules mean more whistles from the referees this year. On Saturday, WKU and Campbellsville combined to shoot 71 free throws.

WKU hit just 25 of its 41 attempts. Harper said that the only positive is that Campbellsville shot worse than his team did. The Tigers hit half of their 30 attempts.

“We’ve got to be better,” Harper said. “Some of it’s mental.

“It comes from some pride with you — that I’m not going to be a bad free-throw shooter. They call them free for a reason. No one is guarding you. Hopefully at this level, you can step up there and make a 15-footer.”

One of the team’s best free-throw shooters from last season, senior guard Brandon Harris, suffered a sprained right foot early in the first half, giving freshman walk-on Brandon Price a chance to play big minutes for the Toppers.

T.J. Price was asked about Brandon’s play — he said he expected good play out of someone who shared his last name.

“He’s a Price,” he joked. “I always knew that he was going to do good. He comes to practice every day ready to work. He just wants to learn. He’s not hard-headed.”

WKU opens its season Monday, Nov. 12 at Wichita State. The Shockers made it all the way to the Final Four last season and are ranked No. 16 on the Associated Press preseason poll.