‘Our guys left everything they had on that court’: WKU falls to No. 11 Memphis 74-62


Arthur Trickett-Wile

WKU Hilltoppers’ redshirt senior guard Luke Frampton (14) drives for a layup against the ASU Hornets’ in Diddle Arena on Tuesday evening, Nov. 9 of 2021, during the Hilltoppers’ first conference match of the season, a nail-biter, which they won 79-74.

Rob Holmes, Sports Reporter

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (1-3) suffered a tough 74-62 loss in Friday night’s road game against the No. 11 Memphis Tigers (4-0).

“We didn’t win the game, I’m [awfully] proud of the way our guys came in here and battled,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We just played one of the better teams in the country, and we were right there.”

The Hilltopper offense was led by grad student guard Camron Justice, senior forward Jairus Hamilton and sophomore guard Dayvion McKnight. The trio dropped 18, 16 and 11 points respectively. Turnovers and missed free throws were the downfall for the program as WKU recorded 25 turnovers and shot just 5-of-13 from the line as a unit. 

“You can point to a couple things,” Stansbury said. “You can point to turnovers, we had 25, [Dayvion McKnight] had 10, but a lot of those came from fatigue – and the free throw line, you can’t go 5-for-13 from the foul line.”

The Hilltoppers did everything they were supposed to do in the first half, jumping on Memphis early on by hitting open shots from deep. Justice entered the game and served as an instant spark for the Hilltoppers, dropping in 10 points off the bench and putting WKU up 29-19 early.

“I just think that we learned that we’re a bunch of fighters,” Hamilton said after the game. “No matter what type of game, no matter what way it’s going we’re always going to fight.”

Memphis clawed back by following Jalen Duren’s lead. The first half ended with a tie ball game 38-38.

“When you’re on the road against that kind of team, that margin for error is thin, thin, thin,” Stansbury said. “…But it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Our guys left everything they had on that court.”

Duren is a projected lottery pick in next year’s NBA Draft and he showed why on Friday night. He had a fantastic game, finishing with 22 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks. He dominated the paint with quick putbacks and lobs in transition while cleaning the glass from start to finish. Duren was the No. 1 center in the country coming out of high school and for good reason.

“That’s why he’s one of the best players in America, he had 22 and 19. He beat us up around that rim,” Stansbury said about Duren. “He got those putbacks, he’s hard to keep off that rim. That’s why he’s maybe the best player in the country, maybe the first player taken in the draft.”

The second half was extremely sloppy for both sides as Memphis and WKU both ramped up the intensity. Memphis dominated points in the paint, doubling WKU’s total 48-24. This was largely because of Duren, but the Tigers’ DeAndre Williams converted all of his 13 points under the basket.

Junior center Jamarion Sharp played some big minutes for the Hilltoppers, finishing with six points, seven boards, four steals and five blocks. Senior Luke Frampton continued to struggle. He sank his first three but couldn’t seem to find his touch for the rest of the game, finishing 2-of-7 from deep.

WKU went on a few runs and found some answers for when the Tigers tried to pull away, but after Stansbury was issued a technical, his roster couldn’t seem to find a rhythm and a lack of bench productivity hurt the Hilltoppers down the stretch. Memphis started getting to the line late in the game, making the Hilltoppers pay by going 16-of-22 from the stripe.

All in all, WKU played a hard-fought game and competed with the Tigers from start to finish.

“I came away from it knowing we’re going to be a pretty good team,” Stansbury said. “I didn’t take any negatives away from it at all. I took all positives.”

After playing three straight Power Five opponents, the Hilltoppers will finally return home to Diddle Arena for a meeting with Alabama A&M on Nov. 24.

Sports reporter Rob Holmes IV can be reached at [email protected].