DENVER — Courtney Lee scored 17 points Thursday and Anthony Winchester added 16 as Western Kentucky held off Denver’s last-ditch effort to earn a 71-70 Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball victory over the Pioneers at Magness Arena.

Yemi Nicholson led all players with 28 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks, but his attempted tip-in of a David Kummer missed layup with two seconds remaining did not fall. The victory —WKU’s fourth in a row over the Pioneers in Denver —snapped DU’s 16-game homecourt win streak, which was tied for fourth longest in the nation entering the contest.

The Hilltoppers improved to 17-5, 9-1 in the Sun Belt, while the Pioneers fell to 12-12 and 5-6 in the league.

“This is a huge win, coming on the road against a team that hadn’t lost here in 16 games,” said Topper head coach Darrin Horn. “We had talked about the streak coming in, not only because we wanted to try and break it but also to demonstrate that this was a team that played really well at home regardless of its overall record coming in.”

Benson Callier gave WKU the lead for good with a layup with 1:42 to go, while Lee’s reverse layup with 41 seconds left extended the Hilltopper advantage to 71-68. Steve Wetrich converted a layup 13 seconds later, but neither DU shot in the final four seconds would fall.

Wetrich was credited with 10 assists in the game while committing only one turnover.

The Pioneers had fought back from an eight-point deficit in the final 10-and-a-half minutes. WKU led 55-47 with 10:37 remaining after a Mike Walker jumper, but DU would go on an 11-2 spurt for a 58-57 lead with 7:40 to go. Nicholson scored the first six points of the run, with DaShawn Walker collecting the final five.

Walker would finish with 21 points, going 7-of-11 from the floor including making all five three-point attempts.

After a slow start to the second half, the Toppers scored nine unanswered points following an Alex Cox trey for their largest lead of the night. Winchester started the run with a jumper, and Lee followed by hitting a3-pointer from the right corner. Joemal Campbell scored his only points of the game with a jumper in the lane, and then Caverna product Boris Siakam tipped in a miss for a 51-43 edge at 12:09.

Siakam ended up with seven points and five boards — four on the offensive end — while going 3-of-3 from the floor.

The Hilltoppers held a 37-36 rebounding edge as Winchester paced the team with eight and Lee added five, and they committed just 12 turnovers including only four in the second half.

DU controlled most of the first half behind Nicholson and Walker, who combined to score 26 points — both were in double figures — with the former adding nine boards and four blocks. Walker hit all four of his 3-point attempts before the break.

Nicholson actually didn’t score until hitting a pair of free throws with 13:01 remaining, but it started a stretch in which he accounted for 10 of the Pioneers‚ next 13 points. When Walker connected on a trey at 6:22, DU held a 27-21 advantage.

Although the Hilltoppers saw Lee and Winchester combine to post 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting in the opening 20 minutes, they remained close behind the efforts of Callier — who scored their first six points of the contest — and Ty Rogers. The latter hit a 3-pointer early, then scored four straight points that left WKU behind 32-27 with just over five minutes to go.

The Pioneers were up 36-30 with 3:20 remaining, but the Toppers would end the half on an 8-2 spurt to tie the score at the break.

Siakam hit the first of two free throws with 1:47 remaining, got his own rebound and slammed it home to cut the deficit to five.

Winchester hit a layup and Lee sank a trey from the left corner at the buzzer while the only DU points during that span came on a pair of free throws from Brett Seger. The Pioneers committed five turnovers and missed both field-goal attempts in the final three minutes.

DU ended up with 17 miscues in the contest. The Pioneers were 16-of-17 at the free-throw line while the Hilltoppers visited the charity stripe just six times.

The Toppers will return home Saturday to play host to North Texas at 7 p.m.


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