Western Kentucky University made better than half its shots from the floor Saturday afternoon, putting all five starters in double figures, as the Hilltoppers downed the University of Southern Mississippi 82-66 at E.A, Diddle Arena.
WKU (10-5, 2-0 Conference USA) knocked down a dozen 3-pointers and made 16-of-20 free throws in the second half to hold off the Golden Eagles (7-8, 0-2).
USM, which shot just 29.4 percent from the floor in falling behind 32-25 at halftime and 35.2 percent for the day, dropped their fourth consecutive game, with all four losses coming away from Hattiesburg.
The Hilltoppers shot 52.9 percent (26-of-50) from the field, and dished out 22 assist on 26 baskets. WKU made 18-of-22 free throws, while USM hit 9-of-11 foul shots.
WKU used a 16-6 run over a 3-minute, 26-second stretch early in the second half to turn a nine-point lead into a 19-point advantage, 52-33, with 14:59 left in the game.
USM got back within nine points on three occasions, the last on a 3-pointer by junior guard Kevin Holland with 4:54 to go, but that’s as close as the Golden Eagles would get down the stretch.
Junior guard Tyree Griffin led USM with 14 points, four rebounds and six assists, while junior guard Coretz Edwards added 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Junior guard Anfernee Hampton came off the bench to score 11 points, making 4-of-6 shots, including all three of his 3-pointers.
Holland made a trio of 3-pointers for nine points, while junior guard Dominic Magee had seven points and eight rebounds.
WKU senior forward Dwight Coleby scored a game-high 20 points, hitting 5-of-7 shots and all 10 of his free-throw attempts. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
Senior forward Justin Johnson posted a double-double with 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds and had two blocked shots. Johnson made 5-of-8 shots, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range.
Senior guard Darius Johnson also had 15 points while handing out seven assists. He went 4-of9 from 3-point range. Freshman guard Traveion Hollingsworth added 12 points and four assists and junior guard Lamonte Bearden had 10 point, five rebounds and a game-high eight assists.
USM will return to Reed Green Coliseum Thursday to open the home portion of its C-USA schedule, hosting the University of Texas-El Paso at 7 p.m.
The Golden Eagles remain home, hosting the University of Texas-San Antonio at 4 p.m. Saturday.