WKU Hilltopper Basketball got into the win column for the first time this season Saturday night, pushing past UT Martin 86-71 in the home opener at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Hilltoppers (1-1) scored 50 points in the paint and outrebounded UT Martin 45-32, shooting 52.3 percent from the field in front of a crowd of 5,815 fans, the largest attendance for a home opener since 2007.
“It was good to have all your pieces,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “I think that’s our next step with this team. We’ve got to get some rhythm and some chemistry with guys playing together, and figuring out that rotation off that bench a little bit.”
Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth led four WKU players in double figures scoring with 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Graduate senior forward Desean Murray added 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals off the bench in his first action of the regular season.
“It was amazing to be able to join my team, to be able to be a part of this building and the action on the court,” Murray said. “It was just great to be out there.”
Redshirt junior guard/forward Jared Savage scored 16 points, and freshman center Charles Bassey contributed 15 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and two assists.
Freshman forward Tolu Smith had six points and seven rebounds in 12 bench minutes.
UT Martin (1-1) led by as much as seven in the first half, and it was still up 26-22 when WKU rattled off a 23-5 run to seize control. That made it 45-31 with 2:02 left in the half after a putback by junior forward Matt Horton.
The Skyhawks trimmed their deficit to 58-51 with 13:42 left in the game, but WKU went on another 11-2 run, capped by a fast-break dunk by Savage.
Kevin Little and Delfincko Bogan each had 18 points to lead UT Martin.
The Hilltoppers head back on the road next week to compete in the Myrtle Beach Invitational from Nov. 15-18 in Conway, S.C. WKU opens the tournament against Valparaiso at 4 p.m. CT Thursday on ESPNU.
“We expect more now,” Hollingsworth said. “Now we’ve got to get comfortable with each other and starting come back together like a puzzle.”
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WKU Athletic Communications/Media Relations