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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 21, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,500) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: HSSN, ESPN3.com. Home Record: ULM 3-7, WKU 9-3. Away Record: ULM 1-11, WKU 3-9. Neutral Record: ULM 0-0, WKU 1-2. Conference Record: ULM 3-13, WKU 7-9. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 8-1.
GAME NOTES: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers try to avoid losing a season-high fourth straight game on Thursday night, as they welcome the ULM Warhawks to E.A. Diddle Arena for a Sun Belt Conference battle.
After snapping a nine-game losing streak on Feb. 14 with an 85-73 win over North Texas, ULM fell back to its losing ways at home versus Arkansas State last Saturday, finishing on the wrong side of an 87-54 decision. The Warhawks are a lowly 4-18 this season and are bringing up the rear in the Sun Belt at 3-13.
WKU lost its third consecutive game last Saturday when it fell at FIU, 87-82, and it has now suffered four different three-game losing streak this season. The Hilltoppers' season as a whole has been a lackluster one, the team sporting a 13-14 overall record and a 7-9 league ledger, but they have performed well at E.A. Diddle Arena (9-3).
WKU has defeated ULM eight times in the previous nine encounters, which includes a 65-54 triumph in Monroe on Nov. 29, 2012.
The Warhawks found themselves trailing 24-3 less than eight minutes into their latest game and could never fully recover as they suffered a 33-point loss. They were overmatched in nearly aspect of the game, getting outshot from the field (.600 to .452) and outrebounded (28-18), while turning the ball over 17 times. Amos Olatayo was impressive in defeat, shooting 9-of-15 from the field for 21 points. Kyle Koszuta scored 13 points off the bench, while Jayon James finished with eight points and 10 assists. The season has been a prolonged struggle at both ends of the court for ULM, which scores 60.8 ppg while allowing 72.0 ppg for a league-worst scoring margin of -11.3. It's hard to imagine how futile the team's efforts would be without Olatayo, who is one of the league's best forwards with a scoring average of 16.1 ppg (.476 FG percentage) to go with 5.7 rpg. Trent Mackey (11.0 ppg) has drained 58 3- pointers at nearly a 44 percent clip, while James brings 9.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 5.4 apg to the table, although he has committed 110 turnovers (5.0 pg).
The Hilltoppers had one of their best offensive performances of the season last weekend, draining 25-of-50 shots from the field (.500) and 24-of-33 from the foul line (.727), but unfortunately they had no answer for FIU's shooting attack (.574) as they were saddled with the five-point loss. T.J. Price was active from beyond the arc (6-of-13), finishing with 22 points and a game-high six assists. Jamal Crook (18 points) had his best game since returning from injury on Jan. 31, George Fant added 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks, and Teeng Akol made an impact off the bench with 11 points. Despite WKU's losing record, it still scores more points per game (66.3 ppg) than it allows (66.1 ppg). Price hasn't been the most efficient shooter (.391), but his volume from 3-point range (60-of-172) has allowed him to net a team-high 14.3 ppg. Crook (12.8 ppg) is an extremely efficient shooter for a point guard (.510) and he hands out 4.2 apg. Fant (12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg) brings stability to the frontcourt.
WKU's season certainly hasn't turned out the way it envisioned, especially coming off an SBC Tournament championship a season ago, but it still boasts enough talent to dismiss the last-place Warhawks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 71, ULM 61
02/21 10:32:03 ET
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