WKU Hilltopper Basketball assisted on its first 16 made baskets Saturday and used a strong day from behind the arc to outrun Southern Miss 82-66 at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Hilltoppers (10-5) improved to 2-0 in conference play for the fifth time in the last six years. They also reached 10 wins before January for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign.
WKU reached 80 points for the eighth time in 15 outings this season and shot 52 percent overall – breaking 50 percent from the floor for the eighth time this year.
The Hilltoppers knocked down a season-high 12 3-pointers on 24 attempts and finished with 22 assists on 26 field goals.
Senior forward Dwight Coleby had a career-high 20 points and went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line with seven rebounds.
Senior guard Darius Thompson made four 3-pointers and scored 15 points with seven assists, while senior forward Justin Johnson had 15 points and 13 rebounds for his 29th career double-double.
Freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth tallied 12 points and four assists, and redshirt junior guard Lamonte Bearden finished with 10 points, a season-high eight assists and five rebounds.
WKU surged out to a 12-2 lead to start the game, but later stalled for a bit and went without scoring for more than five minutes.
Southern Miss clawed back within four at 27-23 before Johnson responded with a 3-pointer and a layup.
The Golden Eagles got a putback just before the buzzer to cut the Hilltoppers’ lead to 32-25 at the break.
WKU assisted on all 12 of its made field goals in the first half, including a combined nine from Thompson and Bearden.
The Hilltoppers got off to a strong start in the second half with a 20-8 run over the first five minutes and never looked back.
WKU made 18 of 22 free throws – 16 of 20 in the second half – and outscored Southern Miss 11-0 in fast-break points.
Tyree Griffin had 14 points and six assists to pace the Golden Eagles (7-8, 0-2).
WKU has a week off before it heads for its first conference road game at Marshall at 6 p.m. CT Saturday.
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WKU Athletic Communications/Media Relations
Head Coach Rick Stansbury
On looking ahead at the next three games on the road…
“We played a good nonconference schedule. We played good people. We’re going to go on the
road and play some good teams, but we’ve been on the road and played some good teams
already in some areas. It’s not going to be anything we haven’t experienced yet. Some teams, at
this stage of their schedule, haven’t been on the road at all or they’ve been on the road but
haven’t played any competition. I can’t say that about us. We’ve been some places.”
On continuing to play hard even with a steady lead…
“You’d like to go out and play when you’re up 15 at halftime and make it 0-0. You like to come
out of a timeout and win those first four minutes. Go win the next four minutes. I think it’s
easier said than done sometimes. I think it’s very obvious, when you get a lead, everybody gets
a little bit loose. A little bit comfortable. They start trying to do some things that maybe we
shouldn’t try. We’ll try to make a big play, a big pass, and it’s human nature. You’ve just got to
be able to limit those kinds of things.”
Senior forward Justin Johnson
On starting conference with two wins..
“Any time you start a conference run 2-0, it’s a good feeling. (Athletic Director) Todd Stewart
came in the locker room after the game and said this was the first time we’ve had 10 wins in
December since 2012, so that’s a good sign, too. The first half, like coach said we weren’t very
good that first half at all. The second half we were good for about 14 minutes, really good. But
like I said, any time we start the conference opener 2-0, that’s really good.”
On the next two games on the road…
“Besides Diddle (Arena), Old Dominion is probably the toughest place to play in the conference
on the road, not to look ahead. We’ve got Marshall first on Saturday and they play a lot like
Belmont. They run and shoot a lot of 3s and they shoot it well. They’ve got a really good player
up there in Jon Elmore who’s been up there for a couple years and plays really good basketball.
We get a week to prepare for them and we’ll be ready to go.”
Senior guard Darius Thompson
On the unselfishness of this team…
“Just as a team we have fun and just really pride ourselves on finding that open man. Nobody’s
really selfish, everybody’s unselfish and we try to make plays for others and it shows.”