Western Kentucky (18-9) at Texas State (8-19)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 27, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Strahan Coliseum (7,200) -- San Marcos, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: WKU 12-4, TXST 5-7. Away Record: WKU 6-5, TXST 1-11. Neutral Record: WKU 0-0, TXST 2-1. Conference Record: WKU 10-4, TXST 4-10. Series Record: Texas State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will begin a two-game road swing on Thursday night when they venture to Strahan Coliseum to take on the Texas State Bobcats in a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
WKU recently wrapped up a three-game homestand at 2-1, with its latest game ending in a victory over ULM last Saturday, 72-63, to improve to 18-9 overall and 10-4 in the Sun Belt. The Hilltoppers have been modest away from home this season (6-5), but they have gone an outstanding 5-1 on the road in conference matchups.
Meanwhile, Texas State's season has been a struggle from the start, as it is just 8-19 and 4-10 in league action. The Bobcats are currently losers of four of their last five games, including a 73-68 setback at Arkansas State on Saturday, and they haven't found much solace on their home floor either (5-7).
The Bobcats got the best of the Hilltoppers earlier this season, winning 68-64 on the road on Feb. 1 in the first-ever meeting between the squads.
The Hilltoppers set the tone early in their most recent contest, running out to a 15-point halftime lead, and they put the game on autopilot from that point forward en route to the easy victory. Although they shot only 39.7 percent from the field in the victory, compared to 42.9 percent for ULM, they connected on nine 3-pointers and won both the rebounding (43-28) and turnover (10-6) battles. Trency Jackson led the way with 25 points, and his performance could have been even better had it not been for a poor performance from the free-throw line (6-of-13). Chris Harrison-Docks scored 15 points and George Fant added nine points and seven rebounds.
On the season, WKU actually shoots a lower percentage from the field (.412) than its opponents (.434), but it stills owns a +2.1 scoring margin thanks in part to 7.6 3-pointers per game an a +4.5 rebounding margin. T.J. Price the leading scorer with 15.7 ppg and has drained 67 3-pointers at a 36.6 percent clip. Fant (13.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Jackson (10.8 ppg) and Harrison-Docks (10.2 ppg) also regular contributors.
The Bobcats managed to cut an 11-point deficit late in the first half to just one at intermission, but in the end they couldn't overcome their road surroundings and fell on the wrong end of the five-point decision. They shot an impressive 48 percent from the field, but ASU was even better at 52.4 percent, and they were outscored from the free-throw line, 23-16. Joel Wright shot 6-of-14 from the field and made 7-of-8 at the free-throw line for 19 points, while Phil Hawkins was hot on his heels with 18 points.
Despite a respectable field-goal percentage (.443), Texas State is plagued by one of the nation's worst scoring offenses, putting up just 62.6 ppg, which has canceled out the positive production brought on the defensive end of the floor (66.2 ppg). Wright is the only player to score in double figures on a nightly basis with 14.8 ppg and also hauls in a team-high 6.2 rpg. Emani Gant (9.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Wesley Davis (8.8 ppg) have been solid as well.
Even though the Bobcats hold the homecourt advantage and won the meeting earlier in the season, the Hilltoppers are clearly the better team and have stepped up their game on the road, meaning another victory should be in store for WKU.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 71, Texas State 62
02/27 10:18:16 ET