Hurting Toppers lose at Murray State

Junior guard Brandon Harris fights for the ball going out of bounds. WKU lost 75-70 against Murray State at the CFSB Center in Murray on Dec. 16.

Lucas Aulbach

MURRAY — The Toppers may have snapped their six-game win streak Sunday against Murray State, but they didn’t go down without a fight.

WKU fell 75-70 at Murray, kicking off one of the toughest stretches of its season with a loss to an in-state rival.

The Toppers were slightly shorthanded against the Racers — sophomore guard T.J. Price, WKU’s leading scorer, did not play with an ankle injury and senior guard Jamal Crook injured his foot in the first half and was on the bench for most of the game. His status against Virginia Commonwealth Tuesday is unknown. Sophomore guard Kevin Kaspar also appeared to hurt his hamstring in the second half.

Coach Ray Harper said he was happy with the way his players reacted to all of the injuries.

“We were right there with a depleted roster,” Harper said after the game. “Like I told them in the locker room, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Still , Harper couldn’t ignore the impact the injuries have had on WKU. Sophomore forward Nigel Snipes has already been ruled out for the season with a torn ACL and junior guard Caden Dickerson is out indefinitely with a separated shoulder.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “Caden Dickerson is sitting at home in Texas, Nigel Snipes is sitting over there on the bench, T.J. was sitting on the bench. I’ve been in this business a long time – I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It’s like I tell the kids all the time, it’s part of the game unfortunately. Injuries are, but you have to overcome it and this is just a bump in the road.”

Murray coach Steve Prohm said he was impressed with the way the Toppers battled through the injuries they sustained.

“They’ve been resilient since really January or February of last year,” Prohm said. “They’ve been resilient group, so it’s a great win for us.”

Junior guard Brandon Harris ran the show with Price and Crook absent. Harris finished with a game-leading 23 points and six rebounds, sinking several deep three-pointers in the second half to keep the Toppers in the game. He had his hands in almost all of the action, playing in 39 minutes.

Harper said he thinks Harris has the potential to put up similar numbers every night.

“Brandon is one of those guys that at time he tries to be too unselfish,” he said. “Today he let it fly.”

Harris’ competition, Murray guard Isaiah Canaan, was just as strong, though. Canaan, a national player of the year candidate coming into the season, finished with 21 points, including 15 in the second half, and five assists. Murray forward Ed Daniel helped the Racers dominate the paint, scoring 16 points and pulling in eight rebounds.

The Toppers have to hope they can get healthy in a hurry — they will face VCU in Richmond, Va., Tuesday before heading to Nashville to take on No. 6 Louisville this Saturday.