WKU hangs on to defeat rival EKU in season opener


Marshall C. Canupp

HIlltopper’s redshirt senior Luke Frampton (14) celebrates with the fans following their 76-69 win over the Florida Atlantic Owls on Feb. 10 in Diddle Arena.

Jake McMahon, Basketball reporter

WKU Basketball (1-0) defeated the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels (1-1) 66-60 in the Hilltoppers’ 2022-23 season opener Thursday evening in the Alumni Colosseum in Richmond.

“We knew this was going to be a difficult game. Anytime you pass out T-shirts and free pizza you know it means something,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Going on the road against a really good team in a difficult environment brings out the worst and best in your team.”

WKU shot 24-of-56 from the field and 10-of-17 from three. The 58.8% mark from deep was a huge improvement from the Hilltoppers’ previous two exhibition games. Stansbury’s squad did a great job of sharing the ball, finishing the game with 18 assists.


The Hilltoppers’ second half defense was the difference in Thursday’s contest. WKU held EKU to 20% from three and 29% from the field in the final 20 minutes. The Hilltopper defense also forced six steals and four blocks in the back half.

“I think we were just fighting with will out there,” Jairus Hamilton said when asked about the second half performance. “It was the first game of the year and we didn’t want to come out with an L. I think we just went out there and fought hard, brought our energy up and came out with a W.”   

Sixth year senior Luke Frampton shot the lights out in his final season debut as a Hilltopper. Frampton finished the game with 21 points and shot an impressive 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.

“I was just taking open shots, taking what they were giving me,” Frampton said. “I didn’t really force anything – credit to my teammates for setting screens and getting me open because without them it’s not possible.” 

Junior Guard Dayvion McKnight and fifth-year forward Hamilton were another big part of the Hilltoppers’ success. The duo tallied 21 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists along with 61 minutes of playtime between the two. 

Both teams shot well from the perimeter early. The Hilltoppers and Colonels combined for 18 points off threes in the first five minutes of the game. The Colonels came out of the 16-minute media timeout playing well. EKU went on a 12-6 run to take the lead 21-14.

EKU continued to execute its half-court offense, putting together another 14-8 run. The Colonels claimed a 35-26 lead with 1:30 left in the half. The Hilltoppers were able to get two buckets within the final 90 seconds but still went to the locker room down five.

EKU kept the momentum from the first half and came out of halftime clicking on all cylinders. After WKU got the score back within one, the Colonels fought right back and took a 44-36 lead with 15 minutes left in the ball game.

WKU did not back down and two threes from Luke Frampton and a nice slam from Jairus Hamilton got the score within one at 46-45. 

Both teams traded blows for the next five minutes and the score stood 56-55 in WKU’s favor with six minutes left.

WKU was finally able to pull away from the Colonels. A three from Frampton put the visitors up by four and began a 10-5 run that the Hilltoppers rode out to get the win.

WKU will return to Diddle Arena for its home opener against Kentucky State University on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.