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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 31, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,500) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: HSSN/ESPN3.com. Home Record: Troy 6-4, WKU 8-2. Away Record: Troy 2-7, WKU 2-7. Neutral Record: Troy 1-1, WKU 1-2. Conference Record: Troy 4-6, WKU 5-6. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 9-7.
GAME NOTES: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will try to avoid their longest losing streak of the season on Thursday night when they play host to the Troy Trojans in a Sun Belt Conference bout at E.A. Diddle Arena.
Troy's season as a whole has not been a very good one, as it sits at just 9-12 overall, but it has inched closer to .500 in conference play (4-6) by claiming a pair of overtime victories last week. After outlasting Arkansas State on Jan. 24, 74-67, the Trojans hit the road last Saturday and took care of ULM as well, 71-64.
WKU, the defending Sun Belt Conference Tournament champions, started league play off right with four straight league victories, but since then it has fallen hard with losses in six of its last seven to drop to 5-6 in conference. The Hilltoppers were handed their third straight loss at Middle Tennessee last Saturday (72-53), marking their third three-game losing streak since mid- December.
Western Kentucky captured the first meeting in the season series, 75-71, on Dec. 1, 2012 to take a 9-7 advantage in the all-time series with Troy.
Despite allowing a game-tying 3-pointer with just two seconds left in regulation to force overtime, Troy took control in the extra session by outscoring ULM, 14-7, in posting its second straight victory. The Trojans put together a solid night shooting the ball, going 22-of-52 from the field (with nine 3-pointers) and they didn't hurt themselves at the foul line (18-of-26). Hunter Williams netted 15 points and dished out four assists, and while Emil Jones had just one field goal in regulation, he came up big with eight points in overtime to finish with 13. Jeff Mullahey (10 points) and Ray Chambers (10 rebounds) both made lasting impressions off the bench in the victory. On the season, Troy has one of the worst offensive attacks in the Sun Belt, scoring just 62.7 ppg on less than 40 percent field goal efficiency, while also allowing nearly 67 ppg. Jones tallies 11.2 ppg and 5.7 rpg, and he is the team's best defender with 1.7 spg and 0.6 bpg. Williams (9.3 ppg) and Antoine Myers (8.9 ppg) chip in to the modest attack, and all three of the Trojans' top scorers hand out at least 2.6 apg.
Western Kentucky was thoroughly overmatched by first-place Middle Tennessee last weekend in suffering the 19-point defeat, getting outshot from the field (48.1 percent to 31.6 percent) while committing 18 turnovers. Kevin Kaspar was the lone Hilltopper to net double figures with 14 points, shooting 6-of-9 from the field in the process. Despite boasting an impressive scoring defense (64.9 ppg), WKU has a difficult time supporting it at the other end, pouring in just 65.7 ppg thanks in large part to a lackluster 3-point field goal percentage (.293). They squad has been without its best player in Jamal Crook (14.5 ppg, 4.5 apg) for the past 10 games, and it's no accident that it is just 3-7 since. T.J. Price acts as the club's top scoring option in Crook's absence with 13.6 ppg, and he also comes up with more than a steal per outing. George Fant (8.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Brandon Harris (6.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) have both been solid in the trenches.
Troy has been playing much better than WKU lately, and the Trojans' 3-point shooting efficiency has been on the rise in recent weeks, which gives them a chance against anyone. But the Hilltoppers have played well at home (8-2), giving them the edge to get back in the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 67, Troy 64
01/31 10:35:14 ET
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