Western Kentucky (8-2) at Murray State (7-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 16, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CFSB Center (8,602) -- Murray, Kentucky. Television: FCS. Home Record: WKU 5-0, Murray State 3-0. Away Record: WKU 2-1, Murray State 2-0. Neutral Record: WKU 1-1, Murray State 2-1. Conference Record: WKU 2-0, Murray State 0-0. Series Record: WKU leads, 95-54.
GAMES NOTES: A pair of rivals will look to pad their resumes early on when the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers face off with the Murray State Racers at the CFSB Center.
The Hilltoppers have been about as hot as you can get of late with wins in six straight games after a 77-57 rout of IUPUI in their last contest. That win closed out a two-game homestand for Western Kentucky which is a perfect 5-0 on its home floor. On the road Western Kentucky has gone 2-1 with the only loss in a 67-64 overtime loss to Southern Miss in the season opener. Western Kentucky is beginning one of the toughest stretches of the season in this game as the Hilltoppers will also play at VCU and against Louisville in the next week.
Murray State has also been rattling off wins this season and is currently riding a four-game winning streak after an 82-70 victory on the road against Evansville. Murray State has yet to drop a decision at the CFSB Center in three tries this season. The Racers were 13-1 at home last season and are currently 7-1 overall with the lone defeat coming on a neutral court against Colorado during the Charleston Classic. Murray State also has a pair of road games this week with contests against Arkansas State and Dayton on the docket.
There have been 149 previous meetings between these instate rivals in a series that dates back to 1932. In that time Western Kentucky has earned a 95-54 edge over Murray State. The Racers have won three of the last four though, including a 70-59 victory last year.
Western Kentucky connected on 55.8 percent of its shots from the field, including 8-of-21 from beyond the arc en route to the 20-point victory over IUPUI. The Hilltoppers were the dominant team on the inside with edges in rebounds (35-28), points in the paint (30-16) and second-chance points (14-8). Jamal Crook stepped up with top scorer T.J. Price sidelined with an ankle injury and poured in 25 points, while doling out nine assists.
Price (16.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) is still listed as questionable for Sunday's contest and if he can't go again then Eddie Alcantara will likely take his starting spot. Alcantara is averaging only 5.5 minutes per game and had two points in 10 minutes against IUPUI. Crook (15.5 ppg, 4.6 apg) is a more than capable scorer to replace the production of Price. George Fant (11.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) has also been slowed by ankle issues this season as well but has scored in double figures in each of the last three games. Other starters like Teeng Akol (7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and Brandon Harris (4.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) need to provide some more scoring punch to make up for Price's absence. Western Kentucky is scoring 79.4 points per game as a team and holding foes to 61.1 points on 38.9 percent shooting. The Hilltoppers are also the top rebounding team in the Sun Belt Conference (40.5 pg).
Murray State really turned it one in the second half to vanquish Evansville. The Racers trailed 39-36 after the first half but then shot 66.7 percent over the final 20 minutes to earn the double-digit win. Murray State had a 40-30 edge on the boards and outscored the Purple Aces 44-26 on points in the paint and 14-4 on second chance points. Ed Daniel was stellar in the game scoring 21 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking three shots.
The duo of Daniel (16.9 ppg, 12.1 rpg) and Isaiah Canaan (21.4 ppg, 3.9 apg) have been fantastic for the Racers this season. Canaan also scored 21 points against Evansville and has had 20 or more points five times this year. Canaan is currently the eighth-highest scoring player in the country and the top scorer in the Ohio Valley Conference. Daniel is scoring more than 10 points per game than he did last season while also turning into a double-double threat on a nightly basis. Daniel is the fifth best rebounder in the country. Stacy Wilson (16.8 ppg) can't be forgotten either as he has also been scoring in bunches this season. No other player is scoring more than 7.5 points per game. The Racers' scoring trio has powered one of the best offenses in the country. Murray State is scoring 79.8 points per game and shooting 48.1 percent from the field. Those are the 26th and 25th best marks in the nation, respectively.
A rivalry game will certainly make this competitive, especially with both teams playing so well out of the gate. However, Murray State just has too much offensive firepower, especially if Price can't go for Western Kentucky.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 80, Western Kentucky 70
12/16 10:34:27 ET