WKU finishes exhibition schedule with 88-59 win over Patriots


Arthur Trickett-Wile

University of the Cumberlands Patriots’ junior guard Isaiah Payton (10) leaps for a two-pointer in Diddle Arena on Nov. 5, 2021, in WKU’s final pre-season exhibition match. The Hilltoppers beat the Patriots out 88-59.

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

WKU Men’s Basketball closed out its exhibition slate Friday night in a dominant 88-59 win over the University of the Cumberlands Patriots at E. A. Diddle Arena. 

“We play these teams to get better,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “There’s no question we’re better tonight in some areas against a better team. We got to keep getting better. There’s no more of these – from here on out they’re real.” 

Sophomore Dayvion McKnight did it all for the Hilltoppers, finishing just shy of a triple-double with 16 points, 11 assist and nine rebounds. 

“I was seeing my guys, my guys were open, they [were] knocking down shots today,” McKnight said. “Everybody was attacking the ball, giving me ball screens and lobs, every pass open.”

Senior Jairus Hamilton finished the game with a double-double and game-leading 22 points, 15 coming in the second half. The Maryland transfer went 4-of-6 from the perimeter and finished the game with 11 boards. 

Cumberlands won the opening tip. Luke Frampton scored the first bucket of the game with a three-pointer, kicking off a 12-0 run to start the game for the Hilltoppers. Jaylen Butz scored six consecutive points during the streak. 

“We’re just trying to figure each other out,” Butz said. “We’re just continuing to grow every day. I think it’s going in a great direction. We continue to work and just continue to listen to coach throughout these few weeks we’ve had so it’s been great just to come out here and finally see another opponent, just to put things to use.”

J.J Ramey finally got the Patriots on the board at the 15:05 mark after starting the game 0-for-8 from the field. Cumberlands hit three consecutive threes, going on a 9-0 tear to get back in the game. Josh Anderson stopped the run with a layup, putting WKU up 14-9 with 11:40 left in the first half.

Cumberlands tied the game at 14 apiece before both teams went back-and-forth. The Patriots took their first lead 19-18 after Ramey made his third three of the first half. Both teams went back to trading buckets before a Jairus Hamilton three gave the Hilltoppers some breathing room. 

With just under four minutes left in the first half, both sides traded three straight triples before a Patriots turnover led to a McKnight layup, giving WKU a 37-29 lead with 2:43 left in the first half. 

Jamarion Sharp came up with a monster block off the backboard two possessions later, then ran down the opposite end of the court to posterize a Patriots defender. Both teams scored a basket each before WKU went into intermission with a 41-32 lead. 

Sharp and Butz split even minutes during the game and Stansbury expressed his desire to see both athletes on the floor together at the same time.

“One thing I wanted to do tonight, we never got to it, was play them together,” Stansbury said. “We were only able to do it [for] a few minutes the first game and wanted to do more this game. Probably wasn’t the best time to do it with [Cumberlands] playing four guards around one, so really never got to do that.”

Butz and McKnight led WKU in scoring at the half with 10 points each. Ramey led both teams in scoring with 16 at the break.

Both teams started off slow after the break, going a combined 1-for-12. Hamilton banged home a jumper, putting the Hilltoppers up 47-35 with 17:02 left to play. Lamar Harris made a hook shot for what would be the last Patriot points for almost six minutes.

WKU embarked on a 17-0 run for 5:27 of game time. The run started with Butz’s first point of the second half before it was ended by a Steven Fitzgerald turnaround jumper. WKU led 66-42 with 10:11 left in the game. 

Cumberlands went on an 8-0 run, getting WKU’s lead back under 20 before Sherman Brashear ended the streak with his first three of the game. Hamilton would get to 20 points by scoring back-to-back buckets for the Hilltoppers before Brashear made his second three of the night. 

Sharp came up with his fourth block of the game, sending it into the stands with 3:39 left on the clock. The Hilltoppers closed out the game with freshmen Tyler Olden and Elijah Hughey hitting back-to-back threes, giving WKU a 88-59 win.

“Give Cumberland a lot of credit, they’re a good little physical team,” Stansbury said. “They can spread you out. bunch of shooters.”

The program will officially begin the season on Tuesday, Nov. 9 when the Alabama State Hornets visit Diddle Arena for a 7 p.m. CT tipoff.

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.