UNC Wilmington (3-2) at Western Kentucky (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 21, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,500) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: None. Home Record: UNCW 1-0, WKU 1-0. Away Record: UNCW 2-2, WKU 0-1. Neutral Record: UNCW 0-0, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: UNCW 0-0, WKU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The UNC Wilmington Seahawks will try to win their fourth straight game on Thursday night, as they pay a visit to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at E.A. Diddle Arena.
Since starting the season at 0-2 with a pair of road losses to Iowa (82-39) and Iowa State (95-92), UNCW has righted the ship with three straight wins to climb above .500. The Seahawks most recently took on Liberty on the road this past Monday night and came away with an 87-76 triumph.
WKU opened up its campaign at Wichita State as part of the Tip-Off Marathon, falling in a 66-49 final. Its home opener came last Saturday against East Tennessee State, and it escaped with a 57-50 victory to pull even at 1-1. The two-time reigning Sun Belt Conference Tournament champions will play three of their next four games at home to close out the month of November.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between the Seahawks and Hilltoppers in men's basketball.
UNCW controlled its contest with Liberty from the opening tip, as it shot 25- of-48 from the field and 31-of-41 from the foul line in a game it never trailed. Addison Spurill led the charge with 24 points, and he was especially busy from the charity stripe (13-of-16). Tanner Milson provided a spark off the bench, shooting 5-of-7 from 3-point range en route to 23 points. Ben Eblen and Cedrick Williams rounded out the balanced effort with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
It was an abnormally strong shooting night for the Seahawks, who have made good on just 37 percent of their field goal tries for 69.6 points per game in the early going, and to make matters worse they yield more than 78 points per game to their opponents. Williams (15.0 ppg) has been impervious to his teammates' struggles, as he is shooting 28-of-43 (.651) from the field. Spruill adds 12.8 points per game, and Milson (8.8 ppg) is off to a strong start from 3-point range (12-of-22), where all but one of his field goal attempts have come from.
The Hilltoppers had a tight battle going with ETSU in the first half before shooting 55.6 percent after intermission to pull away for the seven-point win. Even though they won, it was a poor all-around showing for WKU, which shot just 17-of-32 from the foul line and committed 23 turnovers. T.J. Price paced the team with 18 points, although he did so on just 6-of-15 from the field. George Fant tallied 17 points, eight rebounds and two steals as the only other player to finish with double-digit points.
It's been a cold shooting start for WKU through two games, as it's making less than 32 percent of its field goal attempts for 53.0 points per game, but the good news is that it has played well at the defensive end in holding foes to 58.0 points per contest. Price nets 15.0 points per game, but the guard has just one assist and six turnovers. Fant mans the frontcourt with 9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. What the Hilltoppers lack in scoring prowess they make up for on the boards, as they boast a +5.5 rebounding margin.
With both teams off to poor starts from the field, a low-scoring affair could be in store, a scenario which would benefit WKU the most thanks to its strong scoring defense and the home court advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 65, UNC Wilmington 61
11/21 10:35:17 ET