Texas State (6-14) at Western Kentucky (14-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 1, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: WKU PBS, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Texas State 3-6, WKU 9-3. Away Record: Texas State 1-7, WKU 5-4. Neutral Record: Texas State 2-1, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: Texas State 2-5, WKU 6-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Two teams on opposite ends of the Sun Belt Conference standings will meet up at E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday night, as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers play host to the Texas State Bobcats.
Texas State had lost three straight prior to its most recent home bout versus Troy last Saturday, which it took down, 73-65. Despite that triumph, the Bobcats have endured a disappointing first season in the Sun Belt, going 2-5 in league play and just 6-14 overall.
WKU meanwhile, has been red-hot with four consecutive victories, including a 77-72 triumph over Texas-Arlington on Thursday night to move to 6-2 in conference action, good enough for second place in the Sun Belt behind only unbeaten Georgia State. The Hilltoppers have won two-thirds of their games overall (14-7) and have played especially well at home (9-3).
This marks the first-ever meeting between the Bobcats and the Hilltoppers on the hardwood.
The Bobcats carried a four-point lead into intermission of their most recent game and never surrendered that advantage in the second half en route to the eight-point victory, as they shot a lofty 51.9 percent from the field while allowing Troy to net only 38 percent of its field goal tries. Emani Gant shined in the victory despite playing just 27 minutes before fouling out, shooting 9-of-13 from the floor for 21 points. Joel Wright tallied a double- double of 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Phil Hawkins poured in 13 points.
Texas State typically struggles on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 44.3 percent from the field and just 66.1 percent at the free-throw line for 63.1 ppg, which all but negates an impressive scoring defense (66.4 ppg). Wright is the catalyst with 14.6 ppg and 6.5 rpg, while Gant (10.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) makes good on greater than 58 percent of his attempts from the floor.
The Hilltoppers pulled off their biggest comeback of the season in their latest contest, overcoming a 15-point first-half deficit to conquer the five- point decision over UTA. They shot 45.1 percent from the field, and while they made good on just 59 percent of their free-throw tries, they still outscored their opponent from the stripe, 23-15. T.J. Price led the way with 21 points and four assists, Chris Harrison-Docks netted 17 points on 4-of-6 from 3-point range and George Fant scored 11.
On the season, WKU shoots a lowly 41.6 percent from the field while allowing opponents to shoot 43.4 percent, but it is still able to boast a +2.8 scoring margin by draining 7.4 3-pointers per game and consistently winning the battle on the glass (+4.5 rebounding margin). Price pours in 17.0 ppg, with a large portion of his damage coming from beyond the arc (57-of-153). Fant is a mainstay in the frontcourt with 13.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg and nearly a block and a steal per contest. Harrison-Docks scores 10.5 ppg but does so on a mere 37.3 percent from the field.
WKU's hot streak doesn't appear in jeopardy in this one going up against the underwhelming Bobcats at home. Expect the Hilltoppers to continue their surge up the standings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 72, Texas State 60
02/01 11:57:56 ET