The WKU Hilltopper Basketball team used a fourth-quarter surge Tuesday to power past Laurentian University for a 104-98 victory in the team’s first exhibition game in Costa Rica.
The Hilltoppers – playing by international FIBA rules – trailed by five at halftime and were down 76-73 going to the fourth quarter, but a key 13-2 run gave them a lead they didn’t relinquish against their Canadian foe at BN Arena.
WKU head coach Rick Stansbury was particularly pleased with the way the Hilltoppers overcame an early foot injury to graduate senior forward Dwight Coleby.
“Dwight had great stats,” Stansbury said. “Now we’re down to Justin (Johnson) – someone who hasn’t played since March, 25 pounds heavier and a bum knee. But he was very effective. We couldn’t execute much, couldn’t run a lot. We had to play small, but what it showed again was we have a lot of guards who made basketball plays.”
Redshirt junior guard Lamonte Bearden led WKU with 23 points on 11-of-21 shooting and added five rebounds.
It was Bearden’s first action in more than a year after sitting out last season with the Tops following a transfer from Buffalo.
“I think we just relaxed (in the fourth quarter),” Bearden said. “We sat down on defense and focused on defense a little bit more instead of scoring.”
Senior forward Justin Johnson made the most of his return to the hardwood with 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Johnson, a Second-Team All-Conference USA selection a year ago, had rejoined the team Sunday after spending the spring, summer and beginning of fall camp working with the football team as a tight end.
“I have one practice under my belt, but I think I probably played about 35 minutes,” Johnson said. “I’m just glad to be back out here playing with these guys.”
Graduate senior guard Darius Thompson, a transfer from Virginia, had 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals for the Hilltoppers, while junior guard Jordan Brangers and freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth each chipped in 14 points.
Hollingsworth grabbed six boards, and Brangers knocked down 4 of 8 3-pointers. Coleby, a transfer from Kansas, tallied seven points and seven rebounds before exiting.
WKU shot 51.7 percent from the field. The Hilltoppers had four assists with 11 turnovers in the first half, but they answered by registering nine assists against just one turnover in the second half.
The Tops return to action on the foreign tour against the Costa Rica National Team at 9 p.m. CT Wednesday.
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