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Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden ineligible for first semester

Rick Stansbury confirmed the news on Friday.

NCAA Basketball: Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee State Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden will not be eligible to play for the Hilltoppers during the first semester, head coach Rick Stansbury confirmed on Friday.

Bearden’s ineligibility is rumored to be due to academic issues, though this has not been confirmed.

Bearden averaged 11.8 points per game last year as a junior transfer from Buffalo to go with 3.4 assists. His suspension means Taveion Hollingsworth will have to take on an even larger role as the team’s top returning guard.

Western Kentucky’s fall semester ends on Dec. 14, according to the school’s academic calendar. Assuming Bearden is eligible to return after that date, he should be back for the Hilltoppers’ games against Belmont, Saint Mary’s, and Wisconsin. Western Kentucky will have to find a way to win without him against Arkansas, Washington, and whoever it faces in the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Though Bearden should be back for conference play, this suspension could loom large if Western Kentucky is in the running for an at-large bid — a distinct possibility as Conference USA is expected to be strong this year. This will hinder the Hilltoppers’ opportunity for quality non-conference wins early on, and while the committee will look at who does and does not play in those games, losses still matter.

Western Kentucky opens the season in Seattle against Washington on Nov. 6.