Hopkinsville got a full game with Alijah Watts on Friday night after he sprained his ankle in the second quarter of his first game back, and it already makes a difference for the Tigers.
Watts’ ability to get to the basket and be another threat on the floor frees up the rest of the team. That allowed Don Victor to go for 29 points in the Tigers’ 64-51 win over Muhlenberg County.
Even though Victor and Watts combined for 41 of Hopkinsville’s 64 points, head coach Larry Miller said he though his whole team played well in the win.
“We played well,” Miller said. “We played hard defensively. We played well in the half-court defense, played well in the press. Offensively it’s still taking us too long to get our plays. But having a new guy that’s only had five practices, it’s basically like starting over. Thank goodness we’re starting over — thank goodness we’ve got him because he makes a big difference. We had a lot of guys play well.”
The Tigers made Muhlenberg County uncomfortable with their length and pressure on the defensive end of the floor, forcing the Mustangs to commit 20 turnovers in the game.
Muhlenberg had an opportunity to take the lead in the third quarter after cutting Hopkinsville’s lead to 37-36.
However, Arthur McKnight ended the third on a personal 5-0 run to take a 42-36 advantage into the fourth frame.
That one-point spread was as close as the Mustangs could get the rest of the way, as the Tigers pulled away thanks to their defense in the full court, pushing them to their 10th win of the season.
The story was Watts, who made a difference throughout the game.
While he only scored 12 points in the win, his presence alone on the floor was big for Miller and the Tigers.
“It helps to have Alijah because it takes the pressure off that other spot,” he said. “It gives us five guys who can score.”
In his first full game of action of the season, Miller said he had a solid game having not played a full game all season.
“He can get to the bucket,” Miller said. “If he gets to the bucket it really sets up his jump shot. I thought he really helped us defensively. It helps us having a big guard that can throw over and get it to our inside guys. He’s got a good knack for the game.”
Miller said Watts has a good basketball IQ and is going to get better and make Hopkinsville better as he gets more and more into the feel of the game.
“He’s a smart basketball player and he’s going to get other people involved,” Miller said. “I think he’s going to get better and better.”
The Tigers will be back in action this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. against Union County.
Hopkinsville 64, Muhlenberg County 51
MC (16-11) 12 7 17 15 — 51
HOP (10-15) 15 9 18 22 — 64
HOP: Don Victor 29, Alijah Watts 12, Javon Smith Rudd 9, Arthur McKnight 7, Reece Jesse 5, Jamarcus Burks 2.
MC: Cole Vincent 14, Brayden Lovan 11, Isaac Rose 8, Trey Lovell 6, Noah Phillips 6, Davion Summers 4, Asher Carver 2.