Lamonte Bearden completely broke out of an early-season slump with 16 points and six assists and Western Kentucky rolled to a 83-51 win over visiting Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday inside E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Hilltoppers (5-2) won their third straight and 14th in a row at home against Easterm. Bearden, a transfer from Buffalo who sat out the 2016-17 season, scored 14 and had six assists Friday against southern Methodist and followed that up with big numbers Wednesday.
The redshirt-junior guard had averaged just 7.8 points and four turnovers during a four-game stretch from Nov. 15-23.
Western also avenged a 78-59 loss last year in Richmond.
Freshman guards Taveion Hollingsworth added 14 and Jake Ohmer had 11. Senior center Dwight Coleby finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Senior guard Darius Thompson had nine assists to go along with 11 points.
Western next hosts Wright State (4-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Eastern fell to 3-4 after shooting 36.8 percent from the floor and turning the ball over 13 times.
The Hilltoppers took their first lead of the night on a Hollingsworth 3 from the right corner at 5-4 and then upped that advantage to 7-4 on Bearden’s fastbreak layup. They wouldn’t trail again.
After Eastern cut it to 7-6, Western went on a 7-0 run highlighted by five straight from Hollingsworth and a fastbreak dunk by Thompson at the 11:32 mark. That run ballooned to 11-0 as Eastern went 9:23 without a single point.
Back-to-back layups from Marek Nelson and Justin Johnson – who finished in double figures with 11 – followed by a Coleby hook in the lane pushed the Western lead to 20-6.
A.J. Youngman’s left-corner 3 with 6:30 to play in the half finally broke the Colonels’ long dry and Nick Mayo’s spinning jumper cut the deficit to nine, but Jake Ohmer quickly answered on the other end with a right-side layup and Bearden bounced in a floater to extend the score back out to 24-11. Ohmer’s 3 from the top of the key followed by an outlet pass to Bearden who dumped it off to Thompson for an easy deuce made it 29-11.
Western would settle for a 31-17 lead at the break. The Hilltoppers registered 11 assists on 14 made field goals and shot 46.7 percent from the field. The Colonels went 1 of 7 from distance and turned the ball over nine times.
HALFTIME— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) November 30, 2017
Eastern 17 pic.twitter.com/w6GEKXQLCj
The second half began with much of the same from the home team. Thompson’s fastbreak layup courtesy of a Bearden pass opened a 40-20 lead and consecutive 3s from Hollingsworth and Bearden made it a 48-26 game 4/12 minutes in.
Eastern could never mount any sort of comeback.
Nelson’s oop finish from Thompson at 65-37 brought the crowd to its feet with 8:07 to play and put the finishing touches on a dominant win.
Dedric Boyd led Eastern with 15.
• WKU's 24 assists Wednesday were the most against a Division I opponent since recording 26 at St. Joseph's on Nov. 12, 2010.
• The 32-point win for Western over Eastern was the largest for the Hilltoppers since a 27-point win Feb. 4, 1982.
• The 51 points by Eastern were the fewest since that same game when the Colonels managed just 34.
• Eastern and Western have played 157 times in a series dating back to 1914. Western now owns a 113-44 advantage.
• Western Kentucky is 5-2 for the first time since 2012 when the Tops started 8-2 that season.
• Johnson (1,196 career points) is 31st on the program’s all-time scoring list. Michael Fralix is 30th with 1,203 career points.
• Western Kentucky has now made at least one 3 in 945 straight games.
• The Hilltoppers hadn't beaten a Division I opponent by at least 30 points since Feb. 18, 2010 (99-69 over South Alabama).
• Under Rick Stansbury, WKU is now 14-4 at home, 17-3 when leading at halftime, 17-0 when leading with five minutes to play, 16-5 when out-rebounding the opponent, 12-4 when finishing with more assists than the opponent and 8-6 in November.
• Attendance on Wednesday was announced as 5,523 giving WKU an average of 4,496 after four home games this season.
— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop
Final stats pic.twitter.com/UUtnaKctl2— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) November 30, 2017
Rick Stansbury thanks you pic.twitter.com/GRE6572X5U— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) November 30, 2017