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Louisiana (19-10) at Western Kentucky (19-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 6, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: WKU PBS, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Louisiana 13-2, WKU 12-4. Away Record: Louisiana 5-8, WKU 7-6. Neutral Record: Louisiana 1-0, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 10-6, WKU 11-5. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 24-16.
GAME NOTES: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers can clinch the No. 2 seed for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a win at home against the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns at E.A. Diddle Arena on Thursday. The victory by the Hilltoppers would mean a double-bye to the tourney semifinals and a 12th conference win for the first time since 2009-10.
It would also be the 20th win for Western Kentucky and would mark the school's 42nd such time reaching the mark. That ranks eighth-best in NCAA history, one behind national powers Syracuse and Kansas.
The Hilltoppers are coming off an 80-73 loss at Texas-Arlington Saturday. Western Kentucky was paced by T.J. Price with 17 points off the bench, followed by fellow reserve Brandon Harris with 14 points, although the latter shot just 2-of-9 from the floor. Starters Trency Jackson, Caden Dickerson and George Fant each tallied 11 points as WKU saw a two-game win streak come to an end.
Western Kentucky is tied for 28th in the nation in rebounding in conference contests (34.6 rpg). The Hilltoppers are led offensively by four players in Price (15.5 ppg), Fant (13.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Jackson (10.8 ppg) and Chris Harrison-Docks (9.7 ppg). WKU averages 68.8 ppg. Harrison-Docks is shooting 84 percent from the foul line.
The Ragin' Cajuns have won seven of their last eight games, including a 102-76 home rout of South Alabama Sunday. Bryant Mbamalu tallied 32 points and 11 rebounds, and connected on 10-of-19 shooting from the field, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. Shawn Long also notched a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and J.J. Davenport chipped in 11 points off the bench. The Ragin' Cajuns shot a blistering 62 percent from the field.
Louisiana, which is a game behind the Hilltoppers, is led by the duo of Long (19.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg) and Elfrid Payton (19.0 ppg). Mbamalu (12.1 ppg) is shooting above 40 percent from 3-point range, as is Long (.459). The bench has also played a big part in the success of the Ragin' Cajuns. Junior Kevin Brown (5.8 ppg), sophomore Steven Wronkoski (4.7 ppg) and J.J. Davenport (4.6 ppg) provide sparks off the bench.
The Hilltoppers have won three straight and 10 of the last 12 meetings. That includes a 79-70 decision on Jan. 25, which was in the middle of Western Kentucky's six-game winning streak. The Hilltoppers are also 5-0 this season in games decided by three points or fewer, and this contest has all the makings of a tight finish.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 75, Louisiana 72
03/06 10:27:41 ET
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