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Western Kentucky (12-11) at North Texas (8-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 7, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Super Pit (9,797) -- Denton, Texas. Television: TXA-21. Home Record: WKU 9-2, UNT 5-6. Away Record: WKU 2-7, UNT 1-9. Neutral Record: WKU 1-2, UNT 2-1. Conference Record: WKU 6-6, UNT 3-10. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 14-5.
GAME NOTES: The North Texas Mean Green return home to the Super Pit on Thursday night trying to avoid a five-game losing streak when they face off against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Sun Belt Conference action.
WKU had been losers of six of its previous seven contests heading into last Thursday's bout with Troy, but it came away with a 65-61 triumph to climb back to .500 in Sun Belt play (6-6). The Hilltoppers are 12-11 overall, but they have only claimed two road victories in nine tries this season.
Despite leading for most of its contest against Arkansas State last Saturday, North Texas lost control late and eventually fell in overtime, 75-66, to drop to 3-10 in league action. The Mean Green have now suffered through a pair of four-game losing streaks this season, and they have lost twice as many games as they've won overall (8-16).
WKU won the first meeting between these two teams on Dec. 29, 2012, 70-64, to take a 14-5 lead in the all-time series. It also defeated the Mean Green in the championship game of the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Tournament last March, 74-70.
In a game that consisted of nine lead changes, WKU was able to hold off Troy down the stretch thanks to a stellar showing from 3-point range (9-of-20) and by outscoring the Trojans at the foul line, 12-3. T.J. Price was the spark plug for the Hilltoppers in the victory, shooting 4-of-8 from 3-point range for 17 points, while Aleksejs Rostov (14 points) and George Fant (13 points, nine rebounds) were also impressive. After missing the previous 10 games with an injury, Jamal Crook was rusty from the field (0-of-7), but he handed out six assists, and in the long run his 13.3 ppg and 4.7 apg will be a welcomed return to the lineup. Price is the top scorer for the squad, pouring in 13.8 ppg, while Fant (11.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Brandon Harris (8.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) are big reasons for the team's +4.2 rebounding margin. WKU's offensive attack has been modest at best, shooting 42.1 percent from the field for 65.7 ppg, but it's enough to narrowly outscore its foes (64.7 ppg).
North Texas held a three-point lead in the waning seconds of its latest bout before ASU responded with a game-tying 3-pointer, and the Mean Green were outscored in the overtime period, 16-7, en route to another disappointing defeat. They were plagued by a poor shooting performance, both from the field (23-of-63) and the foul line (13-of-23). Jordan Williams logged 18 points and eight rebounds, and he has put up 22.8 ppg in the last four contests to up his season average to 13.3 ppg. Tony Mitchell tallied 14 points and nine rebounds in the setback, Alzee Williams had 10 points, and Roger Franklin grabbed 10 boards. Mitchell is arguably the most talented player in the league, but his numbers (13.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.8 bpg) have been somewhat underwhelming for the preseason Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Joining Mitchell and Jordan Williams in the double-digit scorers' club is Franklin (10.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Alzee Williams (10.3 ppg), but even with four consistent producers, the lack of depth allows the Mean Green to net only 66.4 ppg while giving up nearly 70 ppg to the opposition.
Despite Crook's disappointing first game back, WKU showed it is a much better team with him on the floor, improving to 9-4 in games he has played (3-7 without). Even with the Hilltoppers' road woes this season, they are simply a better team than North Texas.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 70, North Texas 67
02/07 10:36:13 ET
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