Hilltoppers fall flat in every aspect of the game, get blown out by Gophers 76-54


What would have been an early season statement win for the Hilltoppers turned into a game that couldn’t end fast enough, as a slow start and cold shooting throughout the game lead the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an easy 76-54 victory in the opening game of the Preseason NIT Tip Off.

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It started ugly, real ugly, for the Tops, and at one point had seven turnovers and five total field goal attempts. Behind zany three-point shooting from the Gophers, the Tops got down to an early 24-8 deficit, and it took over halfway through the first half of the game in order for WKU to hit double figures on the scoreboard. The bad play didn’t stop in the second half either, and poor shot selection, combined with lazy defense (especially leaving the backdoor open for the Gophers all night) lead the game to remain ugly throughout.

The bright spot, offensively, for the Hilltoppers were Nigel Snipes and Justin Johnson, both who came off the bench and both finished the game with 15. Nigel was hot hot hot from beyond the arc, hitting three of four attempted three point shots, while Johnson got it done at the post position (where George Fant is supposed to do his work), hitting six of his eight attempted shots and grabbing seven boards. Other than Snipes and Johnson, there really isn’t much to talk about. The starting five for the Tops – Fant, Alex Rostov, T.J. Price, Chris Harrison-Docks and Trency Jackson – scored 21 of the Hilltoppers’ 54 points, and none of the five scored in double figures.

Three of the Minnesota starters – Maurice Walker, Joey King and Deandre Mathieu – scored double figures, as well as 10 points from Nate Mason off the bench. Walker lead the way with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The Gophers, as a team, shot 43.3% from the floor, compared to just 31.6% by the Tops.

Combined with lazy first half defense, turnovers doomed the Tops from the get go, and they finished the evening with 25 turnovers. The only areas in which the Tops did better than Minnesota were at the foul line (surprisingly – 83.3% for WKU, 52.6% for Minnesota) and on the glass (WKU had 42 rebounds compared to 41 Gopher boards.

The Hilltoppers have a few days until their next game on Saturday, and hopefully they’ll use that time to fix their sloppy play and make sure they don’t get upset by Belmont at home.