WKU closes out Costa Rica trip with win

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Western Kentucky finished its trip to Costa Rica with a 118-63 win over Laurentian (Canada) University in San Jose on Thursday.

The Hilltoppers went 3-0 in their three exhibition games during the trip.

Just two days after edging Laurentian 104-98, the Hilltoppers built a largely early lead against the Canadian squad Friday and didn’t look back at BN Arena.

“The first thing I told the team when we came down here was, ‘We’re here to have a good time, but let’s go 3-0 while we’re here,’ ” senior forward Justin Johnson said. “We’re here to win basketball games also. Like coach said, we have a long way to go, but you can see we can score that thing in a lot of different ways.”

WKU shot 60 percent from the floor and registered 20 assists against just 10 turnovers.

The Hilltoppers led by 13 after one quarter and pushed that advantage to 50-28 by halftime. They continued to extend their lead in the second half – even during a brief stretch with low visibility after the lights went out – and got several players involved.

Johnson, who returned to the program Sunday after spending several months with the football team, notched his second double-double of the trip with 27 points and 10 rebounds. He was 12 of 15 from the field.

Freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth also had a big night with 25 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals.

The newcomer was 8 of 14 from the field and also knocked down six free throws.

“The first game, we didn’t really play too hard, so coach talked to us in the locker room and told us to come out and step on their throats and finish the game,” Hollingsworth said. “We took pride in our defense. We played way better defense than we did in the first game.”

Redshirt-junior guard Lamonte Bearden and junior guard Jordan Brangers each scored 16 points. Bearden added four steals and four assists, and Brangers made four 3s.

Freshman guard Jake Ohmer joined his teammates in double figures scoring with 15 points. The Hilltoppers grabbed 18 steals as a team.

WKU will head to the Los Suenos area Friday for the rest of its stay in Costa Rica to take part in several team activities. The Tops will return to Bowling Green on Monday, with three wins in hand.

“I think it was good for our confidence, and to get things rolling in the right direction,” senior guard Tyler Miller said. “Tonight we really took pride in defense. We had guys who sat down, and it was more of a team effort.”