Western Kentucky (11-7) at ULM (6-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday January 23, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fant-Ewing Coliseum (7,000) -- Monroe, Louisiana. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: WKU 8-3, ULM 3-2. Away Record: WKU 3-4, ULM 3-5. Neutral Record: WKU 0-0, ULM 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 3-2, ULM 3-2. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 10-1.
GAME NOTES: Two of the three teams currently tied for third in the Sun Belt Conference standings will collide, as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers take on the ULM Warhawks at Fant-Ewing Coliseum on Thursday.
The Hilltoppers are beginning a two-game road swing after splitting overtime games against Arkansas-Little Rock and Arkansas State last week. Coach Ray Harper's squad fell to UALR, 87-83, before outlasting the Red Wolves in an 82-77 win in double-overtime to end a two-game losing slide. Although WKU is ranked just seventh in the conference in scoring at 68.1 ppg, its performance on the defensive end of the floor has been impressive as it ranks second with an allowance of only 66.6 ppg. The Hilltoppers have won three of their last four road games with the only setback during that stretch coming courtesy of the mighty Louisville Cardinals.
ULM rose to a 6-7 overall record last week with road victories over Troy (75-64) and South Alabama (64-58). The Warhawks trailed the Jaguars by seven points at halftime before a second-half surge lifted them to their third SBC victory. While coach Keith Richard's team is only one-game below the .500 mark, it is being outscored by an average of 3.5 ppg. ULM has had trouble keeping up with its opposition due to its 41.8 percent efficiency from the field.
The Hilltoppers have won six consecutive games against ULM. WKU owns a 10-1 all-time series lead thanks to its recent dominance in the rivalry.
WKU expects a big performance out of T.J. Price, who has averaged 18 ppg in 35.8 minutes per game in four career games versus ULM. George Fant has tallied 13 ppg and 7.3 rpg in the same number of games against the Warhawks. In the team's thrilling double-overtime victory over ASU, Fant notched a double- double with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Fant shot 11-of-18 from the field for the Hilltoppers, who have won three of their last five. Price and Chris Harrison-Docks contributed 19 and 13 points, respectively. Price is netting a team-high 16.7 ppg and has scored in double figures in 26 of his last 29 games dating back to the 2012-13 season.
Led by a game-high 19 points from Tylor Ongwae, ULM was able to overcome USA in its last outing. The Warhawks shot 42 percent from the floor, including a 5-of-16 clip from beyond the arc, while holding the Jaguars to 32.2 percent field goal efficiency. Ongwae (15.3 ppg) has made a habit of topping the team in scoring, shooting 43.2 percent from the floor and ranking third on the team in rebounds as well. Amos Olatayo (14 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Jayon James (10 ppg, 6.4 rpg) have also been options on the offensive end. James is also dealing out 4.2 apg to rank fifth in the SBC.
Although WKU is the better team on paper, the Warhawks have been playing inspired basketball as of late. ULM will put up a solid fight, but it has yet to figure out a way to stop Price, who usually finds a way to best his opponent. The Hilltoppers will need Fant to continue his dominance on the boards and limit turnovers to pick up a much-needed road win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 66, ULM 62
01/23 10:18:29 ET