Toppers roll in first exhibition game

Western Kentucky guard T.J. Price (left) and forward George Fant fight for the ball against Campbellsville forward Jordan Myers (top) and guard Addison Smith during the game Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Western Kentucky defeated Campbellsville 84-46.

Lucas Aulbach

The Toppers started the 2012-2013 season on the right foot on Monday night, scoring an 84-46 win in an exhibition game over Campbellsville University.

WKU was dominant from the first minute over the NAIA school — the Toppers had a 30-point lead at halftime and had the opportunity to try out several lineups against the overmatched Tigers.

“There’s a lot of things we did good and a lot of things we did bad,” sophomore forward George Fant said after the game. “That’s what these games are for, to sort out the positives and negatives and work on them in practice.”

Fant led all scorers with 20 points and had an additional eight rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

Senior guard Jamal Crook wasn’t far behind with 16 points, along with four boards and three assists.

Crook said the Toppers were ready to get back on the court in front of a Diddle Arena crowd.

“It definitely felt good, especially for me,” he said. “This is my last first exhibition game. I was just embracing the moment and I know my teammates were, so it just felt really good.”

Junior guard Caden Dickerson was an effective weapon for the Toppers in his first significant playing time since in over a year due to a shoulder injury. He had nine points, including seven in the first half.

Coach Ray Harper said Dickerson is playing himself into the starting lineup.

“I don’t know how I can continue to not start Caden Dickerson,” he said. “The reason I’m not starting him right now is I think he brings so much to us off the bench, and that is the only reason.”

All four WKU newcomers saw time against the Tigers, with junior guard Brandon Harris and freshman center Aleksejs Rostov cracking the starting lineup.

Harper said he was pleased with their first performance in front of the WKU crowd.

“First time in Diddle Arena, I knew there’d be some nerves and there were, but hopefully they got that out of their system tonight and hopefully we’ll be better come Saturday,” he said.

Crook agreed that the Toppers would improve as they get more experience under their belts.

“It was just a mental thing,” he said. “I think once we go over film and we go over it in practice I think everything’s going to be all right.

Don’t get used to seeing Rostov and Harris in the starting lineup, though — Harper said you can expect new starters in WKU’s next exhibition game on Saturday against Kentucky Wesleyan, though some players have made strong cases for full-time starting roles.

“Our lineup could change hourly,” Harper said. “If you had the opportunity to see us play tonight, there’s some guys that kind of cemented themselves in pretty good shape right now.”

Harper spent several years as a player and head coach of Kentucky Wesleyan, winning two Division II titles there in 1999 and 2001 as coach.

He said he won’t get sentimental coaching against his former team on Saturday.

“I spent a lot of time there as a player and coach, but they’ve got a different colored uniform when they roll in here Saturday night,” Harper said. “We’re going to try and gear it up like it’s a regular season game and be ready to play.”