Toppers earn first win over Austin Peay

Junior forward Kene Anyigbo reaches for a rebound ball on Tuesday night during the game against Austin Peay. WKU won 74-54 against Austin Peay at Diddle Arena.

Lucas Aulbach

The Toppers looked like a faster, stronger team on Tuesday when they beat Austin Peay 74-54 in WKU’s home opener.

It was the first win of the young season for WKU (1-1). The Toppers dropped their first game on Saturday at Southern Mississippi.

Despite facing a bigger lineup than the one USM fielded, the Toppers looked at their best under the bucket on Tuesday, as senior center Teeng Akol finished with 10 points, all in the first half, and six rebounds.

Sophomore forward George Fant was another strong inside presence for the Toppers with a team-leading 14 rebounds to go along with 15 points.

Fant said the Toppers were focused on winning the rebounding battle.

“We challenge each other to beat the other team in rebounding and that’s what we’ve been doing,” he said. “It’s working for us.”

Senior guard Jamal Crook was WKU’s leader on the offensive front. He scored 16 points, including 10 in the second half, and dished out nine assists.

WKU and the Governors traded punches in the first half. The teams went into halftime tied 33-33 after APSU finished the half on a 20-8 run.

The Toppers were stronger on offense and defense in the second half, though, holding the Governors to 21 points while adding 41 of their own.

Harper said WKU played well below his expectations in the first half.

“I thought we could have played harder than we were playing,” he said. “Like I told them, I will continue to challenge them until they reach their full potential.”

Sophomore guard T.J. Price was a big part of the second-half resurgence. He was held to one point in the first half before he found his shot in the later period — he finished with 11 points.

Price went 1-of-12 from the field against USM and missed every field goal he attempted in the first half before taking off in the last 20 minutes. He said he was happy to get on a roll of the first time this season.

“Every shooters go in their slumps at times — mine just came at the beginning of the season,” Price said.

Tuesday was the first in a two-game homestand. The Toppers will face Western Carolina next, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.