Toppers win Sun Belt opener

Lucas Aulbach

Sophomore guard T.J. Price broke out for his best game of the season Thursday night as the Toppers scored a 65-54 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

WKU (5-2, 1-0 Sun Belt Conference) earned a road win over the Warhawks in its first league game of the season.

Price was the heart and soul of the WKU offense. He was dominant Thursday, going off for 30 points while being the only double-digit scorer for the Toppers.

Price said he was motivated by junior guard Caden Dickerson’s injury in the second half. Dickerson left the game early in the second half with an injury to his right shoulder.

Seeing Dickerson leave the game motivated him and the rest of the team to finish strong, Price said. With the game tied with about 10 minutes to go, the Toppers pulled away late in the second half to win by 11.

“When we we went to the sideline then, everybody was just like, ‘we’ve got to pick it up a notch,’” Price told WKU Radio after the game. “That’s when it pretty much started.”

Price was the top scorer, but he was far from the only standout player. Junior guard Amos Olatayo scored 21 points to lead the Warhawks.

Coach Ray Harper said Price’s strong play was the deciding factor for the Toppers.

“We made some plays — T.J., we tried to get the ball in his hands,” Harper said. “He was a guy that, obviously, we felt like could get some buckets, so we tried to put the ball in his hands and let him make plays.”

Dickerson’s status is unknown as the Toppers move forward – their next game is Saturday at Troy.

Harper said his injury, which came soon after he hit a crucial three-point shot, hurt WKU’s morale.

“Losing Caden, he had just made his first three in a long time and thought I saw a smile out of him and he was ready to get it going,” he said. “It’s just an unfortunate play. I just hope he’s OK.”

Price was the only double-digit scorer of WKU Thursday. Sophomore forward George Fant and senior guard Jamal Crook each scored eight points, with Crook tossing a team-high six assists.

Fant sat out WKU’s last game, against Brescia on Saturday, but started Thursday.

Harper said the Toppers showed a lot of positives in their first Sun Belt win of the year.

“We held them to 54 points and 38 percent from the field, so not a bad job by our guys,” Harper said.