The Hilltopper men's basketball team begins Sun Belt Conference play Thursday night, as WKU and FIU meet at E.A. Diddle Arena to begin the stretch of the final 18 games in the conference schedule.
WKU enters the game on a three-game slide, with all of the losses coming away from home, but the Hilltoppers have won 10-straight games at E.A. Diddle Arena and four conference games in a row.
The Hilltoppers have won eight of the last nine games against the Panthers, and WKU’s best all-time winning percentage against any conference opponent comes against FIU (28-5, .848). A win on Thursday would make WKU 3-0 in Sun Belt Conference play for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign.
Thursday’s game brings with it a special ceremony, as the court at E.A. Diddle Arena will be named in honor of legendary Hilltopper John Oldham.
The game will be televised by the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network, airing nationally on ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court, locally on WKYU-PBS and in Louisville on WBNA. It will also be broadcast on the radio on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network with Randy Lee and Hal Schmitt on the call. Live stats and live audio are available on WKUSports.com.
WKU (8-5, 2-0 SBC) vs. FIU (4-5, 1-1 SBC)
December 27, 2012 // 7:00 PM (CT)
Bowling Green, Ky. // E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326)
• WKU is 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference play for the first time since 2009-10.
• WKU has won 10-straight home games after losing four-in-a-row before that.
• WKU’s current 10-game home winning streak is its longest since winning 15-in-a-row at E.A. Diddle Arena spanning the end of the 2007-08 season (1), the entire 2008-09 season (13) and the start of the 2009-10 campaign (1).
• Brandon Harris is averaging 13.3 points per game in the last four games after contributing 3.7 points per game in the first nine contests of the season.
• The combined record of the five teams that have defeated WKU in 2012-13 is 48-12 (Southern Miss, 8-4; Iowa, 11-2; Murray State, 9-2; VCU, 9-3; Louisville, 11-1).
• Five different Hilltoppers have missed at least one game this season due to injury, comprising four would-be starters and a key reserve (Crook, Price, Snipes, Fant, Dickerson).
• WKU leads the Sun Belt Conference and ranks 46th in the nation in rebounding margin.
• Teeng Akol is one blocked shot away from tying Courtney Lee (2005-08) for ninth place on WKU’s career blocked shots list with 78.
THE LAST TIME OUT
WKU shot 50.0 percent in the second half and had just seven second-half turnovers Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., but the 5th-ranked Louisville Cardinals earned a 78-55 win to wrap up WKU’s non-conference slate for 2012-13. A crowd of 10,728 was on-hand to see WKU and Louisville begin a new four-year series of games. The loss was WKU’s third-straight, all coming against teams that went a combined 90-19 and won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament a season ago. Brandon Harris led WKU with 14 points and seven rebounds, and Eddie Alcantara had a career high 11 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of action. O’Karo Akamune added six rebounds. Louisville was paced by four players in double figures, led by Russ Smith’s 20 points. The Cardinals shot 50.9 percent from the floor for the game (27-for-53) and held WKU to 38.8 percent shooting (19-for-49). Louisville had 40 points in the paint and 21 fast-break tallies.
HILLTOPPER INDIVIDUAL TRENDS
• Brandon Harris has made 12 three-pointers in his last four games after making a total of six in the first nine games of the season.
• T.J. Price has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 12.
• George Fant has had at least 10 points in 13 of his last 18 games.
• T.J. Price has hit multiple three-pointers in 18 of his last 25 games.
• Jamal Crook has had 20 double digit scoring games in 46 games since the start of his junior season after having just one in 63 games in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
• Five of the eight highest-scoring games of Jamal Crook’s WKU career came in the first eight games of the 2012-13 season.
• Jamal Crook needs one assist to tie Anthony Palm (1990-91) for ninth place on WKU’s career assists list at 308.
• Caden Dickerson has made 56 of his last 68 free throw attempts (.824).
HILLTOPPER TEAM TRENDS
• WKU has won six of its last nine games and 15 of its last 21 games overall.
• WKU has used eight different starting lineups in 13 games in 2012-13.
• As early as the 10th game of the season, WKU did not have any players who had started every game of the season.
• WKU is 15-5 under head coach Ray Harper when allowing fewer than 70 points in a game.
• WKU has made at least five three-pointers in six of the last seven games.
• WKU earned its eighth win of the season on December 8, and last season’s eighth win did not come until February 4.
• WKU has come back to win eight of the last 15 times it has trailed at halftime, compared to losing 12-straight in that situation before that.
• WKU has faced a double-digit deficit at one point in 33 of its last 40 losses dating back to the start of the 2010-11 season.
• The Hilltoppers have advanced to the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament eight-straight times and in 21 instances in 30 years as a member of the league dating to 1983.
• WKU has won at least one game in each of its last three NCAA Tournament appearances (2008, 2009, 2012).
• Since 1993 WKU has seven NCAA Tournament wins to its credit, and the rest of the Sun Belt Conference is a combined 0-14.