Hilltoppers defeat Austin Peay in second half thriller


Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers senior forward Jairus Hamilton (3) leaps for a layup against the Florida Atlantic Owls Thursday evening, Feb. 10, 2022, in Diddle Arena. WKU won the match 76-69.

Jake McMahon, Baksetball reporter

WKU Men’s Basketball (7-1) defeated the Austin Peay University Governors (3-5) 75-74 in a Tuesday night thriller at the Winfield Dunn Center in Clarksville, Tennessee.

The match marked the 57th meeting between the Hilltoppers and Governors. The Hilltoppers had dominated the series going into Wednesday, winning eight of the last nine games.

Sixth-year guard Emmanuel Akot had an outstanding game for the Hilltoppers. Akot finished the game with 20 points while shooting 8-of-14 from the field.

“We’re getting more comfortable playing together,” Akot said. “Every game we’re going to get more comfortable.”

Senior center Jamarion Sharp dominated both sides of the ball in the contest. Sharp scored 18 points for WKU. The big man also tallied nine rebounds and had six blocks in the game.

 As a team, the Hilltoppers went 29-of-54 from the field. WKU took a dip in three point production, however – the Hilltoppers came into the game averaging eleven threes per contest, but only found success from the perimeter four times in the game.

Both squads started the game by trading buckets. The Governors followed a 9-2 Hilltopper run with a 12-0 run of their own. The teams continued to stay tight throughout the first half. It felt like the Hilltoppers were finally beginning to create some separation and went on a 5-0 run making the score 23-18. 

The Governors fought right back and brought the score within two, 28-26. A Governor three in the dying seconds of the first half put APSU up 32-31 going into halftime. 

Akot took matters into his own hands to start the second half. The sixth-year senior scored seven points early and put the Hilltoppers up 41-35. The Hilltoppers would not stop there. An electrifying dunk by big man Sharp sparked a 11-3 run and put the Hilltoppers up 52-38 in the game. 

When the Hilltoppers looked like they had put the game away, the Governors fought right back. An 8-0 run for APSU put the Governors within four, 62-58. The Governors kept it close all through the rest of the second half.

APSU cut the lead all the way down to one, 75-74, and fouled Luke Frampton, sending him to the line. Frampton missed the first of the one-and-one and the Governors ran down the floor looking for a miracle.

Austin Peay senior guard Cameron Copeland threw up a shot from the perimeter but the ball rimmed out, giving WKU the one-point win.

“There’s no easy road wins,” head coach Rick Stansbury said.  “When you go on the road there’s no such thing as a pretty win, they can be as ugly as they want to be but it’s a win.”

The Hilltoppers will enjoy an 11-day break before returning home on Dec. 10 to face off  against the Wright State Raiders at Diddle Arena at 6 p.m CT.