Murray State (5-5) at Western Kentucky (6-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 21, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: ESPN3.com, WKU PBS. Home Record: MSU 5-1, WKU 5-0. Away Record: MSU 0-4, WKU 1-4. Neutral Record: MSU 0-0, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 0-0, WKU 0-0. Series Record: WKU leads, 73-65.
GAME NOTES: Long time instate rivals will collide on Saturday as the Murray State Racers visit the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at E.A. Diddle Arena in non-conference action.
A three-game winning streak has the Racers poised to reach above the .500 level for the first time this season. They are now 5-5 overall, though their track record on the road (0-4) doesn't lend much support to a continuation of recent success. Murray Sate will end this two-game road trip against Dayton.
This is the second duel in a four-game homestand for Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers opened the stretch of home tilts with a 68-65 win over Southern Miss. The win was the second in the last three games for the Hilltoppers, who are 6-4 overall and a perfect 5-0 at E.A. Diddle Arena. Next up is a matchup outside of Division I competition against Brescia.
There have been 138 contests between these two programs. Western Kentucky has won 73 of those matchups to lead the all-time series, but Murray State has won the last three. That includes a 75-70 triumph last season.
Cameron Payne scored 22 points and T.J. Sapp netted 15 off the bench to carry Murray State over Southern Illinois last time out. Payne nailed four shots from beyond the arc, where the Racers had a 24-9 scoring advantage over the Salukis.
Sapp's showing was a big boost for the Racers, as it came in his first game with the team. The Clemson transfer had sat out the last year per NCAA transfer rules. Sapp enters the mix for a team that already features four players averaging in double figures. Payne (14.1 ppg, 5.6 apg) has been shouldering most of the load, while keeping the offense humming as the team leader in assists. Jarvis Williams (12.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg) provides a double- double threat every night and Jeffrey Moss (12.7 ppg) and Dexter Fields (11.2 ppg) also figure into the mix.
T.J. Price sank a 3-pointer near the end of the second half to push Western Kentucky to a 22-19 lead against Southern Miss. The Hilltoppers never trailed again in the contest, going on to lead by as many as 10 points twice in the second half.
Keeping the score low has been a necessity for the Hilltoppers. They are only scoring 64 points per game and connecting on 39.6 percent from the field. Western Kentucky has largely kept itself in range by limiting opponents to 64.5 points per game. Price (16.2 ppg) is both part of the solution and the problem for the Hilltoppers. The 6-foot-4 guard is leading the team in scoring but is only connecting on 38.3 percent of his shots from the field. George Fant (13.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is the more consistent scorer, netting 52.3 percent from the floor. Fant finished with 15 points on 3-of-6 shooting and a 9-of-10 effort from the free-throw line against Southern Miss.
With Sapp now in the mix the already offensive-minded Racers have even more depth. Playing at home, the more defensively-minded Hilltoppers may be able to slow the attack but expect a tight one between these rivals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 69, Western Kentucky 68
12/21 11:16:49 ET