The Western Kentucky men's basketball team has its first conference win of the season.
The Hilltoppers bounced back from a tough loss at Louisiana Tech last week in its Conference USA opener with a big offensive performance to beat FIU 84-71 on Saturday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
"We were just moving the ball, sharing the ball, moving around and I think that's when we're hardest to guard and that's when we play the best, too," WKU redshirt-senior guard Luke Frampton said.
WKU (9-6 overall, 1-1 C-USA) had five players score in double figures in the victory, led by 16 points off the bench from Josh Anderson. Luke Frampton and Camron Justice each had 15 points, while Jamarion sharp had 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds and Dayvion McKnight had 13 points. The Hilltoppers shot 50% from the field and 43% from 3-point range with 18 assists on 30 made field goals and only 10 turnovers in the game.
"Offensively, I thought we took care of the basketball. Eighteen assists, 10 turnovers. Our shooters made shots," WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "Luke got it going, Cam got it going, Dayvy is Dayvy every night -- that's what he does. Jamar, you look at his stats and he's got great stats.
" ... I thought the guy that came off the bench for us tonight added too for the first time in a long time -- and we needed that -- was (Jaylen) Butz. He had four points and six rebounds -- four of those were offensive rebounds. That was huge. I've talked about Josh already -- even though he comes off the bench, he plays starter minutes for us every night and I look at him as a starter, but again, he's been tremendous for us the last six games now since he's come off that bench."
The Hilltoppers took a five-point lead into the second half after a strong offensive performance through the first 20 minutes, before pulling ahead by double digits in the second half of the victory.
WKU shot 55% from the field in the first half and outscored FIU (10-5, 0-2) 10-2 off turnovers and 26-18 in the paint, including 10 points from 7-foot-5 center Jamarion Sharp.
"It was a really big focus (going to Sharp) because we knew their 7-footer (Seth Pinkney) can help and recover, so we knew that if I pick and roll then we'd be able to get the ball down there more," Sharp said.
The Panthers led for much of the early going, but an 11-3 run pushed the Hilltoppers ahead for the remainder of the half. FIU remained close with the help of six made 3-pointers -- the Panthers entered this week's action attempting and making more 3s per game than any other team in C-USA -- and a late layup from 5-foot-8 guard Tevin Brewer over Sharp as part of his 11-point half to make it 43-38 at the break.
The Hilltoppers extended its lead to double digits for the first time on a 3-pointer from Luke Frampton -- one of his five on the day -- that made it 53-42 with 16:21 to play, and another by Camron Justice with 10:43 left put WKU ahead by double figures for the remainder on the 84-71 victory
"Florida International has a really good basketball team. Jeremy (Ballard) does a great job with them," Stansbury said. "Any time you can have multiple guys that can shoot the basketball like they can shoot it and you have a little point guard that can get the ball in that paint and create, you're a dangerous team.
" ... I thought our guys bounced back. I thought for the most part we were pretty good for most of the night. The first half I didn't like us giving up those 3s in that zone -- they had six 3s. Second half, we basically didn't play any zone. We played all man and I think they had two 3s until the last minute, minute and 30 and the game was over and they hit another 3. Limiting their ability to make 3s was a big stat in the second half."
Tevin Brewer led FIU with 20 points and nine assists, while Seth Pinkney was the only other Panther to score in double figures with 10 points. The Panthers are next travel to face UAB in Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday, followed by a game at Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
The Hilltoppers are scheduled to stay home for another week, before a road swing to Florida. WKU is slated to host Rice in an 8 p.m. game Thursday, followed by a 3 p.m. game against North Texas on Saturday at E.A. Diddle Arena.