EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Evansville (7-1) held Western Kentucky University (5-3) to a frigid 16.1 percent shooting in the first half, outscoring the Hilltoppers 20-5 over the last 10 minutes of the first half en route to a 23-point lead at the break. The Purple Aces, off to their best start in 27 years, won 72-40, keeping WKU winless in Roberts Stadium over the past nine years.
In a halftime ceremony, Evansville honored the memory of the men's basketball team who perished in the 1977 plane crash exactly 31 years ago tonight.
After scoring the first bucket of the game 44 seconds in, the offensive struggles began for the Toppers. WKU converted just four of their next 30 shots in the opening stanza while Evansville shot a sizzling 55.6 percent.
Trailing 16-5 with 11:43 on the clock, Sergio Kerusch drilled a three-pointer to trim the margin back to single digits. But the 20-5 run to close the first half had the Aces in command for the remainder of the contest. Senior forward Shy Ely was anything but, hitting 7-of-9 first-half shots for 16 at the break. He finished 10-of-14 from the field for 26, just two short of his career-high.
The halftime pause proved to do little to cool the Aces as they burst out of the gates with a 15-3 run in the opening 3:22 to balloon the spread to 35 at 51-16 on Jason Holsinger's lay-up. Just three days removed from scoring a career-high 31, the 5-11 guard chipped in a quiet seven points for Evansville.
Nate Garner had 13 points and a game-best 16 rebounds as the Aces dominated the glass 44-28.
WKU failed to have a player in double figures for the first time this season, with Kerusch and Orlando Mendez-Valdez contributing eight points each. Junior guard AJ Slaughter entered the game having scored in double figures in every game he has played, but suffered an off shooting night, going 1-of-10 for two points.
WKU finished 16-of-60 for the game for 26.7 percent. Evansville was 29-of-56 for 51.8 percent.
WKU will conclude its season-long three-game road swing on Thursday, December 18 when the Toppers travel to Mobile, Ala. for their Sun Belt Conference opener against South Alabama at 7:00 PM.