Toppers take care of Catamounts

Senior guard Jamal Crook shoots for 2 points against Western Carolina. Crook scored 26 points in the game. WKU won 92-81 against WCU on Saturday Nov. 17, 2012 at Diddle Arena.

Brad Stephens

There was some drama in Diddle Arena Saturday, but it didn’t come on the court.

The only drama came in the stands as fans checked their phones for updates of the WKU football team’s 31-27 collapse to Louisiana-Lafayette.

On the court, Ray Harper’s Toppers had their way with Western Carolina, beating the Catamounts, 92-81 in front of 5,124 fans in a game not nearly as close as the final score.

WKU (2-1) was led by sophomore guard T.J. Price’s career-high 26 points, on 10-of-15 shooting. He also hit four 3’s.

“My shot and everything was just feeling good to me,” Price said. “I’ve got great teammates and one of the best point guards in the (Sun Belt) conference right now (Jamal Crook). My teammates were just finding me and I’ve got to knock down my shot when I’m wide open.”

Crook was just as good, also scoring 26 points. He did his damage at the free throw line, hitting 14 of 15 at the charity stripe.

The 92 points was the most WKU has scored in a game since a 98-70 win over St. Jospeh’s on Nov. 12, 2010.

The Toppers scored 64 and 74 points apiece in their first two games.

“It felt nice to see some shots go down,” Harper said. “I’ve been saying for awhile once we get some of those shots to go down we’re going to look a lot better.

“Our shot selection has been fine, we’ve just had some shots not going down. I think T.J. Price showed tonight what I’ve been saying all along: He’s a big time player.”

The Toppers put WCU (1-3) away early in the second half with an 11-0 run that stretched a 47-39 lead to a 58-39 advantage.

That run was keyed by eight points from Price and a 3-pointer from junior guard Brandon Harris.

From there the Toppers put the game away at free throw line, going 30-of-43.

“We knew they were going to foul us so we just came in clutch at the line and made our free throws,” Price said.

WKU out-rebounded the Catamounts 38-31. The Toppers also held them to a 5-to-12 assist-to-turnover ratio.

The win was WKU’s second in two games at Diddle Arena, marking the first time since the 2008-2009 season the Toppers have won their first two at home.

“Coach talked about setting a goal for ourselves to not lose at home,” Crook said. “That’s what we’re locking into.”

WKU leaves Sunday to head to Mexico, where it’ll participate in the Cancun Challenge.

The Toppers meet Iowa at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

Crook said he’s looking forward to the trip — both on and off the court.

“It’s just a vacation,” Crook said. “You get to look at some different types of scenery every now and then, so you know, that’s a good thing for me. I don’t know about them, but I like scenery.”

Other notes:

—WKU’s current seven-game home winning streak since an equal seven-game winning streak during the 2009-2010 season.

—WKU’s 52 points in the second half were its most points in a half of a game this season and under Harper.

—WKU had two players score at least 20 points in the same game for the first time since March 6, 2011 when Steffphon Pettigrew (26) and Sergio Kerusch (25) did so against Louisiana-Lafayette.

—Junior Kene Anyigbo pulled down seven rebounds, tying a career-high.

—Crook has scored at least 15 points in all three games for WKU this season.