WKU Pulls Off 75-68 Win In Hostile Environment

Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury and his team pick up a big road win to help solidify them as a team to watch in Conference USA this season.

beIN SPORTS USA

CONFERENCE USA BASKETBALL: WESTERN KENTUCKY AT OLD DOMINION

January 12th, 2018

Entering Thursday’s slate of Conference USA games, three teams remained undefeated in conference play. Only two of those teams remain unscathed. Last night’s matchup between Western Kentucky and Old Dominion on beIN SPORTS was billed as a clash between the league’s most efficient offense and its most suffocating defense – and it did not disappoint.

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (12-5 overall, 4-0 C-USA) needed an excellent second-half performance, but ultimately pulled off a crucial 75-68 win against the Old Dominion Monarchs (12-4 overall, 3-1 C-USA) on the road in Norfolk – a place where the program hadn’t won in over 25 years.

Forward Justin Johnson’s performance was the major story throughout.

He started the game scoring 4 of the team’s first 6 baskets – including three long-range daggers that helped quiet the feisty Monarchs student section. When the Hilltoppers were trailing at the start of the second half, he hit another three on the first possession. They never trailed for the rest of the game.

Johnson ended the game with 25 points, 14 rebounds, a career-high 5 threes, and 3 key blocks on the defensive end – one of the best performance’s of his four-year career.

Guard Darius Thompson got off to a slow start in the first half, but hit an important three-point runner at the first-half buzzer to cut the deficit to 2 points and shift momentum going into the locker room. In the second half, he hit crucial shots to keep the Monarchs at bay when it looked like the lead could slip away.

For the second straight game, the Hilltoppers rode big nights from Johnson and Thompson to big away victories against Conference USA contenders. The duo combined for 49 of the team’s 75 points and an overwhelming 9 of 12 shooting from downtown. Lamonte Bearden pitched in with a solid performance as well – 15 points and 4 assists.

With Thursday night’s win, Western Kentucky now sits alongside the two-time defending champion Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders atop the Conference USA standings. The Hilltoppers head to Charlotte to play the 49ers on Saturday.

Old Dominion played well – especially in the first half. The Monarchs held Western Kentucky under their usual shooting percentages and forced turnovers that turned into fastbreak points at the other end. They forced 16 turnovers in the game and won the rebounding battle, but ultimately the Monarchs were unable to find enough offense to keep up with Western Kentucky in the second half. As a team, the Monarchs shot 38.8% from the field and an anemic 4 of 14 from beyond the arc.

B.J. Stith lead the team in scoring with 17 points and 3 of 4 shooting from three, but scored just 6 points in the second half. Big brother Brandon Stith put up a double-double – 12 points and 11 rebounds – and stuffed the stat sheet on defense with 3 blocks and 2 steals.

Last night’s loss snaps a seven-game winning streak dating back to early December for Old Dominion. They will head on the road to Huntington to play Marshall on Saturday night.

But don’t worry, Monarchs fans – for your hearts will go on.

Join us Thursday as beIN SPORTS heads to Huntington, West Virginia for a championship game rematch from last year’s Conference USA Tournament - the Marshall Thundering Herd (12-5 overall, 3-1 C-USA) play host to the defending champion Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (11-4 overall, 4-0 C-USA) at 8:00pm ET/7:00pm CT.

OTHER SCORES FROM ACROSS CONFERENCE USA

Marshall 91, Charlotte 83

FIU 79, UTSA 76

Southern Miss 75, UAB 86

FAU 73, UTEP 66

Louisiana Tech 57, Middle Tennessee 72