Jonesboro, Ark – Jeremy Evans showed flashes of the player Hilltopper fans saw in the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Tournament posting a career night at Arkansas State late Monday evening as Western Kentucky University (15-7, 9-2 SBC) knocked off Arkansas State (13-8, 5-5 SBC) for only their fourth road victory of the season.
Evans – who was only averaging nine points per game and six boards– recorded 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting and 12 rebounds on the night, including two free-throws to seal victory for WKU. Despite the Red Wolves finishing the game on a 7-2 run, the Hilltoppers with-stood the onslaught to pull out the much needed conference-road win.
WKU took the lead for the first time in the game with 11:22 remaining in the second half, 51-48, with an A.J. Slaughter three-pointer from the right corner off dribble-drive-kick out pass from Anthony Sally. The shot was very similar to the three-point field goal the junior from Shelbyville, Ky., knocked down in WKU’s last game to push the Hilltoppers in front of North Texas 64-62 with just 2:34 to play.
Slaughter’s three-pointer was part of the 13-0 run that saw the Hilltoppers trailing 48-46 to moving WKU past ASU 59-48, also marking the largest lead to WKU in the game. The shot was part of the Hilltoppers 18-8 run to open the final stanza.
Donald Boone – who led the Red Wolves with 15 points – ended WKU’s 13-0 run with a bucket at 6:24 and was the first basket for ASU since the 12-minute mark.
ASU countered the Hilltoppers run with a 15-7 scoring run of its own to pull within one possession with just under a minute left in the contest but missed a desperation three-point attempt from the top of the key, with Evans pulling down the rebound.
In the first half, ASU jumped out to a 20-13 advantage behind 7-of-11 shooting but soon cooled off connecting on only one of their next 11 shots allowing the Hilltoppers to pull with 22-21. Evans started his career-night early in the contest scoring six of the Toppers’ first eight points and finished the opening half with 10.
WKU was able to knot the game up at 30-30 with just over two minutes left the half but the Red Wolves closed the first half of basketball on a 10-3 run to take a 40-33 lead into the locker room. The seven-point lead proved to be the largest the Red Wolves had in the first half.
Orlando Mendez-Valdez and Slaughter each finished the game with 13 points. Sergio Kerusch and Steffphon Pettigrew each recorded nine points, with Kerusch pulling down 11 rebounds and Pettigrew collecting seven boards, respectively.
Shawn Morgan posted 11 points and seven boards for ASU while Daniel Bryant recorded a double-digit scoring figure (10).
The Hilltoppers travel to Monroe, La., on Thursday night, February 5th at 7 p.m. (CST) for a game against Louisiana-Monroe before traveling back to Bowling Green for the “white-out” game with South Alabama.
• WKU remains in sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt East Division standings, tied with UALR for the best record in the conference
• WKU improves to 264-113 (.700) all-time against the 12 current members of the Sun Belt Conference (includes postseason and match-ups when WKU was in the OVC); since joining the Sun Belt in 1982, the Toppers are 261-152 (.632) all-time
• Tonight marked the ninth time this season WKU has played in front of a crowd of more than 5,000 (four coming at Diddle Arena)
• WKU has had three or more players in double figures in 18 of 22 games this season
• WKU improves to 13-0 when holding teams under 70 points this season
• WKU won for the fourth time this season, and just the sixth time in the past two years when trailing at the half (now 29-49 since 2002-03)
• WKU notches its 1,596th win, just five wins shy of becoming the 14th program in Division I history to reach 1,600 victories
• AJ Slaughter recorded double figures in points for the team-leading 18th time in 20 games played this season
• Orlando Mendez-Valdez extended his seventh-straight double figure scoring game streak
• With three assists on the night, Mendez-Valdez (305) tied Michael Fraliex for eighth on the school's all-time career list
• Mendez-Valdez, with 155 career three-pointers, tied Patrick Sparks (2002-03) for sixth on the school's all-time list
• Kerusch recorded double-digit rebounds for the sixth-time this season
• Evans’ 22-point game was his first 20-point game of the 2008-09 season
• The double-digit performance by Evans marked his 10th of the season