Sharp sets single-game record for blocks, records third program triple-double against Alabama A&M

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Arthur Trickett-Wile

WKU Hilltoppers’ junior center Jamarion Sharp (33) attempts to block a layup by ASU Hornets’ sophomore forward Jordan O’Neal (2) 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.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's basketball reporter

WKU (2-3) handled Alabama A&M (1-4) 88-62 in a historic night for junior center Jamarion Sharp as he set a new single-game program record for blocks. He also earned a triple-double, the third in WKU history and became the first athlete to do so using rejections. 

The Hilltoppers were without starting big man Jaylen Butz due to soreness and still without Keith Williams, leaving WKU’s depth limited. 

“I thought we carried our practice the last few days, togetherness, into that game,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “I saw those guys get off the bench, the [Isaiah] Cozarts, Cam Justice is a huge factor, Sherm[an Brashear]. All those guys came in and added too, and we need that.”

Sharp finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks. Sherman Brashear put up 18 points on 5-10 shooting, going 4-8 from behind the arc. Jairus Hamilton finished with 15 points on 6-9 shooting, five rebounds and three assists. 

“Honestly I felt great because it’s my first time starting,” Sharp said. “I knew I had to bring energy, as soon as I brought energy I spread it everywhere and it kept going on from there.”

The Hilltoppers got off to the fast start they’ve been looking for all season. After the Bulldogs scored the first basket of the game, WKU went on a 9-0 run to take the early advantage.

“In the first couple of games we’ve had trouble starting out fast,” Brashear said. “After the Memphis game, we were like, ‘okay, if we can start off every game fast like this, we can be a really good team’. We just go through the hot hand and Jairus [Hamilton] was hot, so him hitting shots for us was great.”

A&M came out in a zone defense that caused a few early turnovers for WKU but the Hilltoppers settled down and went to work, attacking that zone through Hamilton hitting jumpers from the elbow.

“As long as we lock in as a team, we can go through any zone,” Sharp said. “No matter how hard it is. A long as we play together and stay together, we’re good.”

Sharp made his first start in the absence of Butz and made the most of his opportunity with four rebounds and four blocks in his first eight minutes, wreaking havoc all night.

WKU shot the lights out, putting up 35 points in 12 minutes while shooting 82% from the field and hitting 7-of-9 threes in that timeframe. 

On the defensive side, WKU held A&M to just 28% shooting from the field and forced the Bulldogs to do most of their damage from three-point land, shooting 40%. Their top scorer, Jalen Johnson, was held to two points on 1-7 from the field. 

It was the most impressive half the team had seen all year as WKU doubled up the Bulldogs in just about every category at the break. WKU took a 47-25 lead into the locker room on 69% shooting from the field and 73% from behind the arc.

The Bulldogs didn’t go away without a fight, starting the first five minutes of the second half by shooting 50% and outscoring WKU 14-10 while the Hilltoppers started getting sloppy with five turnovers in seven minutes.

The Hilltoppers got a little help from Isaiah Cozart, who played his first minutes of the season. He scored seven points and grabbed two rebounds in nine minutes. 

Brashear made his presence known by scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second half, providing another sniper in the backcourt. 

“I got a lot of open looks, the coaching staff and my teammates, they put a lot of confidence in me shooting the rock,” Brashear said. “When you have that behind you it’s real easy to go out there and play comfortable and hit a shot.”

The game was on cruise control at that point as the only drama left was whether Sharp would get the triple-double, which he did with 3:59 left in the game. 

“Nothing he did today was that surprising to me, absolutely not,” Stansbury said. “He took advantage of his first start… he didn’t do much more than what we see from him every day. 

The Hilltoppers finished with five players in double digits. WKU had 36 bench points, 26 fast break points and finished +17 on the boards and +18 from the three point line. 

WKU will get a few days rest over the holiday before returning to Diddle Arena for the second of its five-straight home games. The Hilltoppers will take on UT Martin Saturday at noon. 

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and WKU’s local PBS station. 

Men’s basketball reporter Kaden Gaylord-Day can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @_KLG3.