MBB Exhibition #1: Hilltoppers welcome in Pikeville for tune up


The Lady Toppers put on quite a show Friday night on John Oldham Court, and tonight it’s the men’s turn, as they’ll take the floor and welcome in Pikeville for the lone preseason tuneup before kicking off their inaugural season as a member of Conference USA, and the 96th season in the history of Hilltoppers basketball.

It’ll be the first time we see a handful of of Hilltopper newcomers – five to be exact – as Ayinde Sprewell, DJ Clayton, Avery Patterson, Justin Johnson and Rob Marberry will see their first action against another team. And, while the Tops are returning their four leading scorers from a year ago, tonight will be a prime time for Ray Harper and his coaching staff to see what the new guys can do against players in a different uniform. Also, Alex Rostov will be back on the floor, after missing 12 games due to a blood-clot health condition. He, along with Ben Lawsonshould be able to rotate time out of the five-spot, which will be a huge boost to the Hilltopper lineup.

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Sharing time with Johnson and Marberry will be the two’s mentor,

George Fant

, who – along with

T.J. Price


Kevin Kaspar

– are playing in the final of their four year career at WKU. While it wont be reasonable for Johnson and Marberry to play at Fant’s level (yet), it will be interesting to see at what level of play they’re at without Fant on the floor – how far the production falls off from the four-spot when Fant comes off and the other two come on.

The opponent tonight – Pikeville – has already begun play in the NAIA’s Mid-South Conference, and are a perfect 3-0 to begin the year. The Bears have four double-digit scorers, lead by K.K. Simmons, who’s averaging 21.0 points per game in just over 26 minutes on the floor. Simmons will be the key to pay attention to defensively for the Tops, as in two exhibition games against UK and Tennessee, Simmons scored 28 points against the Cats and 30 against the Vols.

As the season goes on, and with the depth the Tops have on the bench, it might become increasingly harder to predict the lineup, but to open play, there shouldn’t be anything surprising to start on the floor. Here’s how I think the lineup tonight will shape up for Harper and company:

Chris Harrison-Docks – G
Trency Jackson – G
T.J. Price – G
George Fant – G
Alex Rostov – F

do expect to see Kaspar get a lot of floor minutes, just to get his legs back under him after missing a ton of time last year, as well as Lawson to not only relieve Rostov (he still has to get back into the grove of things as well) but to show how much stronger he’s gotten, as well as put what he learned over the summer in the European U20 Championships.

Also, don’t be surprised to see a constant revolving door of the new guys getting subbed in, so Harper can see the chemistry on the floor in different combinations until he finds one he likes.

It’ll be great to see the guys on the floor once again, and it’s sure to be a fun evening before the season begins on Saturday.