A college basketball rivalry dating back to 1932 continues Saturday between two Kentucky programs.
The WKU Hilltoppers travel west to take on the Murray State Racers for the 152nd time.
Both teams enter tomorrow’s game with .500 records. WKU is 3-3 and coming off wins against Bowling Green State and Saint Joseph’s. The Hilltoppers are led in scoring by senior guard T.J. Price, who is averaging 13 points a game, with senior forward George Fant leading the team in rebounding at 7 per contest.
Murray State is 4-4, and has been a tough home opponent for WKU in recent years. The Racers have won the last three meetings they’ve hosted against WKU, with the Toppers’ last win in Murray coming in 2004. If WKU is to win Saturday, they’ll likely have to contain the Racer’s star sophomore guard Cameron Payne, who was picked as the Ohio Valley Conference preseason player of the year.
After Saturday’s game in Murray, the Toppers have a week off for finals. Then they travel to Ole Miss Dec. 13, before hosting games against Chicago State Dec. 17, and the Louisville Cardinals Dec. 20.
WKU women’s basketball team is eyeing a return trip to the NCAA tournament. Last spring, the team made its first appearance in “The Big Dance” since 2008.
Head coach Michelle Clark-Heard took questions Tuesday during basketball media day. She says the team will be tested early with a season-opening WNIT appearance and then a trip to Louisville.
“I can’t look into the crystal ball and tell you what our record will be or how many wins we’ll get,” said Clark-Heard. “But, I can tell you one thing and I can promise you. We’re going to play as hard and we’re going to compete and we’re going to have a chance to be in the ballgame the last five minutes. When we do that, I think we’ll have the opportunity to get the girls in the position to have a chance to win.”
In March, the WKU women lost to Baylor 87-74 in the first round of the NCAA tournament
Both WKU basketball teams were beset by key injuries last season.
Men’s basketball coach Ray Harper also met with the media Tuesday. His team opens the season November 15th against Austin Peay.
The WKU basketball season kicked off ceremonially Saturday at Hilltopper Hysteria at Diddle Arena. Fans came to watch the scrimmages, a three-point contest, dunk contest, and performances by the cheerleaders and Topperettes.
Coaches and players each had their chance in the spotlight as they were introduced to the crowd, dancing and posing to songs of the choice. For the first few minutes of the men's scrimmage, coach Ray Harper provided humorous play-by-play. The evening ended with a chance for fans to meet and get autographs from their favorite players.
The women's season opens at home against Bellarmine November 7 at 7 PM and the men's opens at home November 10 against Pikeville.
The WKU men’s basketball team will open its first season as a member of Conference USA with 18 league games, as well as home contests against Louisville and Belmont.
The Hilltoppers start the season at E.A. Diddle Arena Nov. 14 against Austin Peay, and will play home-and-home series against Conference USA opponents Marshall, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International.
The rest of WKU’s first-ever Conference USA league schedule features home games against Texas-El Paso, Texas-San Antonio, North Texas, and Rice. The Hilltoppers will go on the road to take on Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Alabama-Birmingham, and Middle Tennessee.
Fresh off an NCAA postseason appearance, the WKU women’s basketball team is looking forward to another tournament. The school announced Thursday that Diddle Arena will serve as a host site for the opening round of the women’s preseason NIT tournament in November.
“Not only being in the tournament, but having the chance to be one of the few schools to host is a sign of the national respect that our program has garnered in the women’s basketball world,” said WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard. “I am so excited for our team and our fan base to have the chance to have this event in E.A. Diddle Arena.”
The Lady Toppers have a 6-3 record all time in the preseason NIT tournament, which began in its current form in 1994.
The WNIT preseason tournament begins November 14th.
The WKU women’s basketball team has made a habit of coming back in games this season.
A big rally last week against Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Conference championship propelled them to an NCAA tournament appearance on Saturday. The Lady Toppers will travel to Waco, Texas to face No. 2 seed Baylor. WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard says her team can’t afford to fall behind against the Lady Bears.
“They can put up numbers fast,” said Clark-Heard. “If you can’t withstand that first four minutes, it’s going to be crucial for us. It becomes very crucial that we continue to have the confidence that we had. It’s going to be a different atmosphere, but the floor is going to be the same length and the rim is going to be the same height.”
WKU junior Chastity Gooch has been named the Sun Belt Conference "Defensive Player of the Year" for the second consecutive season while freshman Kendall Noble was named the league's "Freshman of the Year".
Gooch was also named a First-Team All Conference selection, Noble a Second Team selection and sophomore guard Micah Jones a Third Team All-Conference choice in a survey of the league's coaches and media members.
This is the first time since 2004-05 that WKU has had three players selected as All-Conference selections when Crystal Kelly, Tiffany Porter-Talbert and Leslie Logsdon were honored. It's only the tenth time in program history that it's happened.
A trio of honors came down Tuesday for WKU men’s basketball players. Redshirt-freshman Chris Harrison-Docks has been named the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, becoming the fourth Hilltopper to win that honor in the SBC.
Meantime, junior guard T.J. Price was named second-team all-conference after leading the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game. Junior forward George Fant was named to the third team, All Sun-Belt Conference. Fant led the team in scoring ten times during the regular season.
The Hilltoppers play in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.
Also Tuesday, junior Chastity Gooch of the WKU women’s basketball team was named the conference Defensive Player of the Year. Kendall Noble was named the women’s Freshman of the Year. The WKU women open up the Sun Belt Conference tournament Wednesday night against Louisiana-Lafayette.
The WKU men’s basketball team heads into the weekend on the verge of another 20-win season.
The Hilltoppers are traveling to the Lone Star State in search of another Sun Belt conference victory. WKU will enter Saturday night’s game against UT-Arlington with a 19-9 record, with 11 wins and four losses in the Sun Belt Conference.
You can read more about the UT-Arlington game at WKU Sports.
The Hilltoppers are in second place in the Sun Belt, behind only Georgia State.
WKU hopes to continue the momentum from Thursday's win over Texas State, which saw the Tops rally from a 12 point deficit and win by one. The team's final home game is next Thursday against Sun Belt foe Louisiana-Lafayette.