Arkansas State (10-6) at Western Kentucky (10-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 18, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: WKU PBS, WBNA, ESPN3.com. Home Record: ASU 5-2, WKU 7-3. Away Record: ASU 5-4, WKU 3-4. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 3-2, WKU 2-2. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 30-14.
GAME NOTES: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers try to avoid their first three- game slide of the season, as they host the Arkansas State Red Wolves in Sun Belt Conference play at E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday night.
Not only have the Hilltoppers avoided dropping three straight decisions, it is only now that the program has bowed in back-to-back outings. Nine days ago, WKU was defeated by Georgia State (77-54) at home, and then two nights ago it was Arkansas-Little Rock that turned the trick in overtime (87-83). Despite the setbacks, the Hilltoppers are still a solid 7-3 in their own building in 2013-14.
While WKU was playing a close matchup on Thursday night, it was the same story for the Red Wolves who suffered a hard-fought 73-72 loss at Georgia State. The setback was the second in the last three contests for ASU, but still the team is ahead of WKU in the SBC standings with a record of 3-2.
The Hilltoppers own a 30-14 edge in the all-time series with Arkansas State, and they are a stellar 18-2 at home in the relationship.
Perhaps the most important stat in the game between Arkansas State and Georgia State a few nights back was in the turnover department where the host suffered only six miscues. ASU shot a decent 42.9 percent from the field and knocked down 11 3-pointers, but the Red Wolves also coughed up the ball 12 times. Kirk Van Slyke registered a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Kendrick Washington came up a rebound shy of his own double-double as he dropped in 12 points, followed by Cameron Golden with 10 and six assists.
One of only two players to have started every game, Van Slyke is the leader in scoring for the Red Wolves with 17.6 ppg, hitting on 57.7 percent from the field overall and 43.1 percent beyond the arc. Van Slyke is also first on the glass with 6.4 rpg and tops with 24 of their 46 blocked shots. Melvin Johnson III and Brandon Reed account for 14.1 and 10.8 ppg, respectively, the former now coming off the bench even as he makes good on 49.4 percent of his attempts behind the 3-point line.
Hitting on 13-of-29 (.448) beyond the arc on Thursday, the Hilltoppers figured to have themselves a shot at taking down UALR, but in the overtime period the visitors made good on 5-of-7 shots from the floor in order to sneak by. Still, Aleksej Rostov made a major impact with 20 points on 4-of-6 shooting behind the 3-point line before fouling out. Chris Harrison-Docks accounted for 14 points, Brandon Harris 13 and Kevin Kaspar 11 points and six rebounds in the losing effort.
The Hilltoppers might be in for a rough run now, with leading scorer T.J. Price having been suspended for disciplinary reasons. Price was scoring 16.6 ppg and missed the Thursday night outing, allowing Rostov to move into the starting lineup. Without their star the Hilltoppers now have just two active, double-digit performers in George Fant (12.4 ppg) and Trency Johnson (10.4 ppg), the latter having appeared in just nine games while shooting a disappointing 38.3 percent from the field.
Without a key figure on offense, Western Kentucky is quite possibly heading in the wrong direction. Considering the Red Wolves are actually playing over .500 on the road, this is certainly a contest that could fall in favor of the visitors tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 75, Western Kentucky 70
01/18 10:23:25 ET