BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Hilltopper Basketball mounted a furious comeback Friday
after falling into an early 22-point hole, but ultimately couldn’t get over the hump
in an 85-80 loss to Missouri State in the season opener at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Hilltoppers (0-1) fell behind 26-4 at the 12:03 mark of the first half, but they
trimmed that to an 11-point deficit by halftime and pulled within 51-50 with 14:02
WKU was still within one possession of Missouri State (1-0) – the preseason favorite
to win the Missouri Valley Conference – with 15 seconds left when redshirt junior
guard Lamonte Bearden hit a 3-pointer to make it 82-80.
But the Bears scored the final three points of the game to hold on for the win in
front of 5,241 fans – the largest crowd to watch a Hilltopper game since a matchup
against Middle Tennessee on Jan. 30, 2016.
Bearden led WKU with 24 points in his first outing as a WKU player, while senior
guard Darius Thompson added 19 points. Senior forward Justin Johnson tallied 11
points and 15 rebounds for his 25th career double-double.
Freshman forward Marek Nelson and senior forward Dwight Coleby each had eight points
for WKU, which capitalized at the free-throw line by netting 28 of 36 from the
J.T. Miller scored 14 points to lead five Missouri State players in double figures.
MVC Preaseason Player of the Year Alize Johnson finished with 13 points and eight
rebounds. The Bears shot 55.7 percent from the field and outscored WKU 44-26 in the
WKU had won 12 of its previous 13 home openers and its last three season openers
overall. The defeat broke a streak of 14 straight nonconference home wins by the
Hilltoppers dating back to a loss to fourth-ranked Louisville on Dec. 20, 2014.
WKU continues a stretch of three straight home games to start the regular season
when it hosts Kentucky Wesleyan at 7 p.m. Wednesday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
How to follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper
Basketball, follow the team’s social media channels, @WKUBasketball on Twitter,
@WKUBasketball on Instagram, and WKU Basketball on Facebook.