Bowling Green, Ky. — Courtney Lee scored 27 points in 26 minutes and Western Kentucky University forced 30 turnovers to earn a 94-67 men’s basketball victory Campbellsville Thursday in the first of two exhibition games at E.A. Diddle Arena.
Lee ended up shooting 10-of-17 overall from the floor while hitting 5-of-6 at the foul line as he scored 14 points to help the Hilltoppers open up a 17-point halftime advantage and 13 over the final 20 minutes. He also collected six steals — which would have been a career high in the regular season — four rebounds and two assists.
His effort keyed a defense that was credited with 19 thefts. Orlando Mendez-Valdez added five steals, Tyrone Brazelton recorded three, and both Steffphon Pettigrew and A.J. Slaughter had two as WKU would score almost half its points, 42, off Tiger miscues.
“All in all, we got what we wanted out of the game,” WKU head coach Darrin Horn said. “We were able to play somebody else and see where we are so far. From an effort standpoint, I was really pleased with our guys — we had a ton of deflections, we forced 30 turnovers and did a lot of good things.
“But, it’s early in the year and we are mixing in some young guys, so we have to continue to make strides and grow in a lot of different areas.”
The Hilltoppers scored the first 11 points of the contest — Lee accounted for six — in just two minutes and twenty seconds of action, as they would never lead by fewer than seven the rest of the way. Four steals would produce nine of the points, including a dunk from Lee and a three-pointer by Brazelton.
WKU ended up recording 12 steals in the opening 20 minutes, actually, which resulted in 24 points at the other end of the floor as the Tigers turned the ball over on 18 occasions.
CU cut the deficit to seven points, twice, the last time when Nestor Colmenares converted 1-of-2 free throws with just under 14 minutes to go to make the score 14-7. Ty Rogers’ short jumper two-and-a-half minutes later extended the WKU advantage to 19-8, and when Brazelton converted with little more than 11 minutes to go the Hilltoppers held a 24-9 lead.
Brazelton would finish with 13 points and seven assists while turning the ball over just once. In fact, his effort helped WKU commit only 10 miscues on the night.
The Toppers would lead by double digits the rest of the way. A Rogers layup with four minutes left and Mike Walker’s dunk a half-minute later gave WKU a 16-point edge, which would grow to 17 when two D.J. Magley free throws in the final minute made the score 43-26 at the half.
Magley posted seven points and seven rebounds in his unofficial debut on the Hill, and Pettigrew chipped in with seven points — all in the second half — and three rebounds in just 11 minutes. WKU’s third freshman, B.J. Frazier, was injured during pregame warm-ups and did not see action.
Boris Siakam recorded eight of his 14 points after the break, while Slaughter would score all seven of his points of the final 20 minutes and Mendez-Valdez collected six of his 10 in that time as the Hilltoppers built their lead to more than 20 points when Pettigrew sank a three-pointer with 11 minutes remaining. Mendez-Valdez’ final points on a driving layup with 1:21 left gave WKU its biggest advantage of the night at 94-63.
Walker led all players with eight rebounds, helping the Toppers win the battle of the boards 38-37. Slaughter finished with five boards, with Siakam and Japeth Aguilar contributing four each.
Colmenares paced the Tigers with 17 points, hitting 4-of-6 from the field and 9-of-14 from the free-throw line. Kyle Martin sank all six of his shots for 12 points, and Bubba Long supplied seven points, five rebounds and four assists. Colmenares and Clint Graham shared team-high rebounding honors with Long.
WKU’s final preseason contest will take place Monday at 7 p.m. when it plays host to Kentucky State.