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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 19, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: HSSN/ESPN3.com. Home Record: UALR 10-1, WKU 8-1. Away Record: UALR 0-7, WKU 2-5. Neutral Record: UALR 1-1, WKU 1-2. Conference Record: UALR 5-4, WKU 5-3. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 34-11.
GAME NOTES: A pair of 11-win Sun Belt Conference squads are set to meet on Saturday night, as the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans visits E.A. Diddle Arena to play the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
UALR's 11-9 record may appear promising on the surface, but 10 of those wins have come on its home floor, and it has gone without a victory in seven true road tests. Their struggles away from Little Rock continued on Thursday night in a blowout defeat at the hands of first-place Middle Tennessee, 82-50, as the Trojans fell to 5-4 in conference play.
After winning its first four Sun Belt tests of the season, WKU hit a wall with three consecutive losses to start the new year, but it was able to bounce back with a dominating 72-49 triumph over Louisiana at home on Thursday night. The Hilltoppers have enjoyed their time in Bowling Green this season, winning eight of nine at Diddle Arena.
UALR got the best of WKU earlier this season, 75-67, on Jan. 3, but the Hilltoppers hold a commanding 34-11 advantage in the all-time series.
The Trojans never stood a chance against Middle Tennessee on Thursday, as they found themselves down 19 at the half and eventually fell by 32 in their worst conference defeat of the season. It was ugly on all fronts for UALR, which shot just 35.3 percent from the field, committed 19 turnovers, and lost the rebounding battle by a 37-25 margin. Josh Hagins scored 14 points in the setback, while Kemy Osse chipped in with 11 points and three steals in 20 minutes off the bench. With John Gillon (10.8 ppg) out indefinitely with a sore knee, the Trojans' only performer to average in double figures is Will Neighbour (11.2 ppg), who shoots 47.5 percent from the floor and tallies 6.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg and 1.2 spg as well. James White adds 9.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg to the mix. As a team, UALR sports a scoring margin of +1.6, while making field goals at 43.4 percent efficiency (second-best in the Sun Belt).
WKU was also part of a lopsided affair on Thursday, but it landed on the positive side by putting forth a dominating effort on the boards (49-31), and by connecting on 20-of-26 shots from the free-throw line. Brandon Harris shined in the triumph with 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and Teeng Akol tallied a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards, while also swatting away four shots. T.J. Price (13 points), George Fant (10 points) and Percy Blade (10 rebounds) rounded out the well-balanced effort. The 72-point showing was a slight departure for the Hilltoppers, who average 67.4 ppg on 42.7 percent field goal shooting. Price paces the squad in scoring with 14.6 ppg, and he has been active from 3-point territory, ranking sixth in the conference with 39 long-range buckets. Fant adds 11.9 ppg and 6.3 ppg, while Harris (8.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Akol (7.2 ppg, 1.4 bpg) have also been strong frontcourt contributors. WKU has been without starting point guard Jamal Crook (14.5 ppg, 4.5 apg) for the past month with a foot injury, and he is expected to be out a few more weeks.
It's only a matter of time before UALR gets over the hump away from home, but considering how poorly it played on Thursday and how strong WKU's home resume' is, don't expect it to happen in this matchup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 70, Arkansas-Little Rock 63
01/19 10:33:17 ET