What worked and what didn’t in WKU’s win over Austin Peay?

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What worked:

The full-court press.
At times, WKU’s full-court press was a thing of beauty on Saturday. The Governors only turned the ball over 13 times, but the press was effective in preventing the Governors from getting into any offensive rhythm.

Justin Johnson was especially effective guarding the man inbounding the ball and helping trap the ballhandler in the corners. He reminded me a lot of O’Karo Akamune with his intensity and athleticism. I would love to see him utilized more in that position moving forward, because his athleticism and length could give smaller guards trouble.

I also loved Trency Jackson’s tenacity. The senior guard was very animated and vocal on defense. If the rest of the team can feed off of Jackson and Johnson’s hustle and intensity, the press has an opportunity to wreck havoc on opposing offenses.

The only negative aspect of WKU’s full-court press was the amount of fouls the Toppers racked up. WKU committed 23 fouls in the contest, and many were silly fouls that could have been avoided. I love the intensity the team showed, but it must learn to control that emotion and play smart and disciplined. If they can do that, the press could be the Toppers’ calling card this season.

The Minnesota game will be a good measuring stick defensively. The Gophers have a speedy backcourt, but have a tendency to turn the ball over at a high rate. The Toppers may be able to use the press to force turnovers and get easy baskets.

Justin Johnson and Rob Marberry.
Let me start by apologizing to Rob Marberry and his family [ed. – who are avid Wave the Red Towel readers. Hello, Marberry fam!] for not including him in my preseason roster breakdown. I had no idea he was as good as what he played against the Governors.

Marberry and Johnson were, without a doubt, the two best post players the Hilltoppers had in Saturday’s game – and yes that’s including George Fant. Marberry’s defense was superb, and Harper himself even said he was the best post defender the Tops had. If Marberry continues to play defense like that, he will continue to get minutes over Alex Rostov and Ben Lawson.

And then there was Johnson, who lived up to every bit of the hype. He looked confident on offense and defense, and his hustle did not go unnoticed. He dove for every lose ball, went after every rebound, and was active on both ends of the court.

But, my favorite play made by Johnson on Saturday didn’t show up in the box score. In the first half, he set a solid screen at the top of the key that led to a wide-open T.J. Price three-pointer. Johnson ran back down the court pointing to Price with a huge grin on his face, and you would have thought he just threw down an alley-op. That kind of attitude is contagious, and is why he has already became a crowd favorite.

The freshman duo also benefited from Fant double-teams. Fant will see a lot of those this season, and both of the freshman did an excellent job of cutting to the hoop for a pass from Fant, resulting in easy buckets.

Marberry and Johnson played so well, I was actually upset when Harper took the two out late in the game in favor of Fant and Rostov. In my opinion, the best lineup Harper used in the game was Chris Harrison-Docks, Price, Jackson, Johnson and Marberry.

Minnesota has good post players, and Harper will need to play whoever will not get pushed around down low. Unfortunately, the two players with the most size – Lawson and Rostov – were pushed around by an Ohio Valley Conference team. Marberry and Fant would offer the Topper the best inside defensive presence, mixed with Johnson’s energy off the bench.

Next: What Didn't Work For The Hilltoppers?