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Tops Earn First-Ever Win Over Louisville in Diddle Arena, 82-72

Published: Dec. 19, 2021 at 12:44 AM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - WKU Hilltopper Basketball led wire-to-wire Saturday against in-state rival Louisville, earning the program’s first-ever win over the Cardinals in E.A. Diddle Arena with a convincing 82-72 victory.

The Hilltoppers (8-4) shot 50% from the field and dominated the free throw line, making 25 of 31 from the stripe while the Cardinals netted just 5 of 7.

WKU is now 11-8 against the Power Five in the last five seasons, including four straight victories over Power Five teams at home.

The emotional win in front of 7,053 fans also came one week after the devastating tornadoes that rocked Bowling Green and the region.

“At the end of the day, there is a lot of excitement out here, a lot of excitement,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “But it is still a game, it’s a game. When you drive out here, some of you folks that haven’t seen some things, drive by some of those communities. See how our communities got destroyed. So, hopefully for a few hours, the excitement before the game, the excitement during the game, a lot of them are still excited. We got our mind off of it for a little bit. Winning and losing, let’s be real about it, way too much put on it. It’s a game.

“Fans across America, sportswriters, man you think when a team loses or a coach loses, it is the end of the world. It is a game. Hell, it is important, we all want to win, but that is the real world out there now. You want to know what the real world is, just go out there and drive around a little bit.”

WKU led from the outset, getting 3s from redshirt senior guard Luke Frampton and graduate senior guard Camron Justice to open play.

That was the start of a career game for the veteran Justice, who scored a career-high 25 points and made 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range.

“First off, for them being here and the environment we had is just a testament to this city and the support they have for this university,” Justice said of the crowd. “With everything that is going on outside of this arena, it’s tragic people need help, support, you know, and for them to be here and support us the way they did from start to finish is just unbelievable.”

The Hilltoppers went on a 14-2 run to lead 20-7 after a dunk by junior center Jamarion Sharp, but a flurry of 3s got the Cardinals (7-4) back within three at 28-25.

WKU scored 13 of the next 15 points and went into the half with a 46-37 advantage.

Louisville responded early in the second half with a 10-0 run to trim its deficit to three, and a 3 by Noah Locke made it just 54-52 Hilltoppers with 15:04 remaining.

WKU countered with a 7-0 run, sparked by a three-point play from Justice, and later threw the knockout blow with an 8-0 spurt that held the Cardinals scoreless for more than four minutes.

The Hilltoppers eventually led by as much as 15 with 4:53 to go.

“With the tragedy that happened this past weekend, I feel like the community came together,” sophomore guard Dayvion McKnight said. “We came together as players and just wanted to win and do as much as we can on the court.”

Sharp controlled the paint with 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, while McKnight added 13 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Senior forward Jairus Hamilton had 13 points and seven boards.

Locke led Louisville with 20 points.

The Hilltoppers wrap up the regular season at Austin Peay at 7 p.m. CT Wednesday in Clarksville, Tenn. The game will air on ESPN+.

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