CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Western Kentucky played a spirited and confident second half while riding the play of Darius Thompson to win 72-55 at Austin Peay on Friday inside the Dunn Center.
Thompson finished with 21 points, seven assists, six steals and six rebounds. Thirteen of the senior’s points came in the second half. The win gave the Hilltoppers an 8-5 record before beginning Conference USA play Thursday against Louisiana Tech.
Taveion Hollingsworth added 20 for WKU and Lamonte Bearden navigated through foul trouble to score 14 to go along with six assists. Western shot 60.7 percent from the field in the second half after trailing by two at the break.
The win was the ninth straight for the Hilltoppers over the Governors.
Western Kentucky started the game on a 9-0 run and went 4-4 from the field while taking advantage of a pair of APSU turnovers. The Governors went the first 3 1/2 minutes before scoring.
Back-to-back 3s from Zach Giotta, Ed Stephens and then Stephens again, respectively, got Austin Peay back into it quickly at 13-11. The Tops answered with an 8-2 spurt and went up 21-13 on Thompson’s fastback, two-handed slam after Bearden’s long outlet pass.
Dayton Gumm’s floater in the lane with 4:21 to go in the half pulled the Govs within 26-25. Stephens’ layup about a minute later gave APSU its first lead at 27-26.
Then, in an odd series of events, Gumm missed one free throw and WKU’s Dwight Coleby got the rebound and Western called timeout. During the timeout officials ruled that Gumm should have been shooting two free throws and awarded the APSU freshman a single shot – which he made to tie the score at 30.
Terry Taylor’s putback with 13 seconds gave the Governors a 32-30 lead going into the break.
Western had just five assists to eight turnovers and was out-rebounded 17-11. It also went 0-for-5 from 3.
Stats! pic.twitter.com/o8V2u4jVtF— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) December 23, 2017
Averyl Ugba helped Austin Peay enjoy a 39-32 lead early in the second half after a right corner 3. Thompson came back with consecutive triples – WKU’s first two of the game – to get the Tops down 40-38.
Down 42-40, Western went on a thunderous 11-0 run that included a Coleby two-handed slam on the break and a Thompson one-handed tomahawk throwdown coming off the left baseline. The attack came in a span of 2:23.
Another Stephens 3 from the right wing cut the WKU margin to 49-48 before Hollingsworth restored order on the other end with a pull-up jumper from the right side with just less than 12 minutes to play.
Hollingsworth’s bucket sparked 10 straight from the Hilltoppers which ended with Thompson’s short lob to Coleby for the flush. Thompson’s 3 with 7:29 left gave WKU a 62-50 lead.
The Governors couldn’t muster a final run.
Stephens finished with 13 for APSU (5-7) and Taylor added 11.
Final stats (not sure which score is correct but will get to the bottom of it! pic.twitter.com/KekDmd9tyE— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) December 23, 2017
Western Kentucky freshman guard Jake Ohmer missed Friday’s game due to a concussion suffered during the Belmont game Tuesday.
Ohmer had played in all 12 WKU games coming in and was averaging 9.8 points per game while shooting 35.1 percent from 3 and dishing out 1.3 assists per contest.
Ohmer’s absence left Western with just seven active players during Friday’s game.
• Friday’s matchup between WKU and Austin Peay was the 55th in a series dating back 1941. The Hilltoppers have now won straight since 2001 and last lost in Clarksville in 1990.
• Western Kentucky has eight wins before January with four games remaining. The 2012 team won 10, the 2007 team won nine and the 2015 and 2013 teams each won eight.
• WKU senior forward Justin Johnson (1,277 career points) is now 24th on WKU’s all-time scoring list. Wayne Chapman is 23rd with 1,292.
• Western Kentucky has made at least one 3 in 951 straight games.
• Under WKU coach Rick Stansbury, WKU is now 5-14 in road games, 3-18 when trailing at halftime, 20-0 when leading at the 5-minute mark, 2-10 when attempting fewer free throws than the opponent, 5-15 when getting out-rebounded by the opponent, 18-5 when allowing 69 points or fewer, 7-6 in December and 2-2 on Friday.
• Stansbury was an assistant at APSU from 1985-90 and Friday’s game was his first time back since 1991.
• Attendance on Friday was announced as 2,023.
— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop