WKU dominates Marshall as Justice scores a career-high of 27 points

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Marshall C. Canupp

Hilltopper’s graduate guard Camron Justice (55) drives to the basket attempting to draw the foul from Florida Atlantic University Owl’s freshman guard Alijah Martin (15) during their matchup on Feb. 10 in Diddle Arena.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's Basketball Reporter

WKU (18-12, 10-7 C-USA) smacked Marshall (11-19, 4-13 C-USA) on the road by a score of 86-72 on Wednesday night, winning the first of two matchups against the Thundering Herd this week. 

“We rolled the dice a little bit on how we wanted to play them tonight,” WKU head coach Rick Stanbury said. “They scored 15 points in the first five minutes, and they scored 13 in the next 15 minutes of the first half. We changed defenses, and very few people try to zone Marshall…We were going to choose our poison a bit.” 

Every time the Hilltoppers and Thundering Herd meet up, it’s always a high intensity matchup. Heading into the game it was announced that WKU graduate Luke Frampton would make his way back to the court after missing the previous game with an illness. Senior Jairus Hamilton was still unavailable with a patella injury. 

WKU graduate Camron Justice scored a career-high 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting to go along with four assists and four rebounds. Sophomore Dayvion McKnight followed with 23 points and four assists. Super senior Josh Anderson put up 16 points, five rebounds and five steals. Junior Taevion Kinsey led Marshall with 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. 

“We were just moving the ball and making it a team effort,” Justice said. “When you lose Jairus, you lose a big body… Tonight they were kind of dropping off the ball screens so me and Dayvion were able to get into the lane and make some plays for everybody and make some plays for ourselves.”   

Justice and McKnight came out the gates with a chip on their respective shoulders after the two guards struggled against Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The duo scored 20 of the Hilltoppers’ first 29 points. 

Marshall has surprisingly struggled this year defensively, and it showed on the court. It was a close first half before WKU pulled away, starting with a dunk from junior big man Jamarion Sharp. The Hilltoppers went on a 7-0 run which became a 15-3 run that saw them take a double digit lead. 

The Herd struggled offensively to find weak spots in the Hilltoppers zone, especially with Sharp clogging up the middle and throwing off shots. On the other end, Marshall had no answer for WKU’s pick-and-roll offense that allowed WKU to get easy shots at the rim whether it be floaters, layups or lobs to Sharp. 

Sharp had one of his best halves of the season, finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 16 minutes of play. Three Hilltoppers had double digit points going into the locker room with WKU leading 43-28. 

Marshall came out of the locker room trying to get back into the game, but WKU pushed its lead up to 17. Marshall gained momentum after hitting back-to-back three pointers, forcing WKU to call a timeout. It didn’t work with the Herd went on a 10-0 run, bringing it back to within single digits. A three from Frampton stopped the bleeding, at that moment, heading into the 12-minute TV timeout. 

The teams traded baskets with WKU keeping the lead at nine before McKnight went on a personal 5-0 run that bumped the lead back up over double digits. WKU took advantage of Marshall making mistakes which led to WKU going on a run that put the visitors up 19 with four minutes left in the game. 

With 1:51 left in the game, Justice put the icing on the cake with a three-pointer, putting the game out of reach and scoring his career high. 

Justice and McKnight finished with a combined 50 points while WKU shot 58% from the field and 41% from behind the arc. The Hilltoppers only shot seven free throws for the game. WKU outscored Marshall 42-30 in the paint. 

WKU will close out the regular season Saturday against Marshall in Diddle Arena. If WKU wins that game, the Hilltoppers will be the two seed in the Conference USA Tournament. If FAU loses to FIU on Thursday, WKU will be the two seed. Tip-off for the next installment of the Moonshine Throwdown against Marshall is set for 2 p.m. 

“We have to do what we did today and come out with energy, focus and put it together as a team,” Sharp said.

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