Hilltopper Hysteria dunks in the new basketball season

The 2013-14 WKU men’s and women’s basketball teams took the floor at Diddle Arena on Friday night for Hilltopper Hysteria, WKU’s opening basketball event.  

The Lady Toppers started the intra-squad scrimmage in first in front of an estimated 4,200 fans. Freshman center Ruta Savickaite was aggressive early and gave the White team a sizeable advantage. The 6-foot-4-inch Lithuania native finished with eight points.

Familiar faces also impressed for the Lady Toppers in their 20-minute scrimmage in the form of junior forward Chastity Gooch and junior guard Alexis Govan.

Gooch made two 3-pointers in the scrimmage. She was third among sophomores last season in rebounding with over 11 boards per game. Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said the presence of newcomer Savickaite will give Gooch some freedom offensively.

Govan got going on the offensive side of the floor early on, but her defensive prowess highlighted her play. She played with active hands and picked up a steal along with several deflections.

Heard said she was excited to show off her full roster to the Topper fans.

“It’s exciting for the group,” Heard said. “What we’re trying to do is get the opportunity for people to get a chance to see our new players and now we have a full roster. I’m just excited.”

The men’s team took the court next in what would become a dunk fest with both teams flying high, showing off for Topper fans.

The teams – one sporting red uniforms, the other wearing gray – filled the arena with electricity through a number of slam dunks and alley-oops. Overall, 20 dunks were thrown down during the 20-minute scrimmage.

Coach Ray Harper grabbed a microphone and began “coaching” with a little less than nine minutes remaining. The crowd laughed as Harper encouraged junior guard T.J. Price to continue shooting 3-pointers.

Redshirt junior transfer Trency Jackson was the star of the night leading the gray team with 19 points and five 3-pointers, to a 62-52 victory. Even against a relaxed defense, Jackson looked poised and comfortable launching from behind the arc.

After the scrimmage was over, Jackson continued to wow the crowd: this time in the annual Hilltopper Hysteria Dunk Contest. Jackson, along with junior transfer Aaron Adeoye, redshirt sophomore Nigel Snipes, freshman Brandon Price and freshman Ben Lawson, battled to be the dunk contest champion.

            Jackson and Adeoye made it all the way to the last round. Adeoye finished a two handed reverse windmill to put the pressure on Jackson. Jackson threw the ball in the air, gathered off two feet and attempted to go between his legs while spinning 360 degrees, but missed the slam, resulting in Adeoye earning the crown.

But Jackson wasn’t done. After the contest, for an encore he caught an alley-oop thrown all the way from the crowd by sophomore Percy Blade.

 Adeoye said he was surprised he was crowned. “(Trency) had some nice dunks,” Adeoye said. “I knew I was going to go out there with my little routine and it worked, I guess, because he missed his dunks.”

Jackson said he didn’t know what dunks he was going to use or when he was going to use them.

“I had three dunks in mind but I didn’t know actually which one I was going to do,” Jackson said. “So I just freestyled it a little bit.”

Jackson and Adeoye are both new to the WKU program but said that the adjustment period is going well.

“Coach Harper got us going at a good pace, a great pace,” Jackson said. “This year is going to be fun. Coach Harper got us pressing. We’re playing a fast-paced game because we have more athletic dudes and it’s going to be fun.”

The Toppers will host Campbellsville Nov. 2 for an exhibition match at 3:00 p.m. in Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers start exhibition competition Oct. 29 at home against Kentucky Wesleyan at 7:00 p.m.