Bowling Green, Ky. — Tyrone Brazelton led four players in double figures with 17 points Saturday while Western Kentucky University forced 27 turnovers in earning an 87-63 non-conference men’s basketball victory over the Murray State at E.A. Diddle Arena.
Brazelton was 7-of-8 from the field — making all three attempts from beyond the arc — while handing out four assists without a turnover in 25 minutes. His efforts helped the Toppers (3-0) shoot 53.8 percent from three-point range as they won for the third time in eight days.
WKU will now hit the road for the first time this season when it faces No. 14 Gonzaga in the opening round of the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout. Tip-off in Anchorage is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. (CST) on Thanksgiving.
Courtney Lee led all players with 18 points, while A.J. Slaughter chipped in with 11 and Steffphon Pettigrew scored 10 off the bench. In addition to using a dozen steals — Lee, Slaughter and D.J .Magley were all credited with three — to score 30 points off turnovers, WKU made twice as many free throws as the Racers (1-1) with a 30-of-41 performance at the foul line.
A 10-point halftime lead for the Hilltoppers did not budge until seven straight points following the under-16 minute media time-out allowed them to extend to a 57-40 advantage with 14:22 to go. Tyler Holloway ended what turned out to be a 9-0 spurt with a layup with 14 minutes left, but that would be as close as MSU would get.
Slaughter made two free throws with 10 minutes to go to extend the edge to 65-45, while WKU would lead by as many as 28 following his three-point play with six minutes remaining.
He finished 3-of-4 from the floor and 4-of-5 at the free-throw line to score in double digits for the first time this season.
Jeremy Evans, making his first official appearance of the year, collected eight points, six rebounds and four blocks. Boris Siakam chipped win with seven points, while Mike Walker led the team on the boards for the second time in three contests after grabbing a game-best seven.
“It was another great team effort for us tonight, we got a contribution from a lot of guys,” WKU head coach Darrin Horn said. “Once again, it was our defense that keyed our runs and helped us stretch our lead, especially in the second half. We knew Murray State would be a tough opponent coming in, and they were physical and well coached.”
Danero Thomas paced the Racers with 17 points and five rebounds, and Holloway collected 15 points with a 5-of-5 effort from the field. Ray George had eight points before fouling out, while Tony Easley came off the bench to supply eight points and five rebounds.
MSU shot 47.8 percent as a team, making 4-of-9 shots from long distance, while outrebounding the Hilltoppers 33-27.
A fast start from the field helped the Toppers jump out to an early advantage, as they hit their first five attempts in building an 11-5 lead at the first media time-out. Brazelton, who was 5-of-5 from the floor in the opening half, then sank back-to-back three-pointers in less than a minute to help WKU extend to a 17-7 edge with 14-and-a-half minutes to go.
When MSU cut its deficit to four with the help of four points from Easley, Lee made two free throws and a three from the wing around a Evans jump shot in the lane for a 24-17 Hilltopper advantage just past the midway point of the period. Lee would finish with 10 points in the first 20 minutes, as he and Brazelton accounted for almost half — with 23 of 43 points — of the team’s scoring before the break.
Magley pushed the lead back to nine when he followed Lee’s trey with a layup a half-minute later, but the Racers scored six unanswered points — including four by George — to make it a one possession game, 26-23, with seven minutes to go. WKU responded with a 10-2 run to build the lead back up to 11, 36-25, with three-and-a-half minutes remaining, while scoring the last seven points of the half after two Holloway three-pointers cut the advantage back to three points for a 43-33 halftime edge. Brazelton scored the last five with a layup and three from the top of the key in the last 78 seconds.