New Orleans (8-21) vs. Western Kentucky (19-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 6th, 7:45 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convention Center Court (8,000) -- Hot Springs, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: UNO 6-7, WKU 12-4. Away Record: UNO 2-11, WKU 5-8. Neutral Record: UNO 0-3, WKU 2-0. Conference Record: UNO 3-15, WKU 12-6. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 22-8.
GAME NOTES: The fourth-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers begin their quest for a three-peat tonight, as they tussle with the 13th-seeded New Orleans Privateers in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Convention Center Court. The survivor of this battle will move on to face the winner of the Arkansas-Little Rock/Arkansas State matchup in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
The Hilltoppers are the most decorated team in the SBC, having won gone 37-20 all-time in this event, including a record seven titles. WKU has taken the last two crowns in this tourney and the Toppers are the last team to win three straight titles in the event (2001-03). They are red-hot heading into the postseason, as they won their last seven conference games to finish 12-6 within the league. With one more victory, WKU will also reach the 20-win plateau for sixth straight season.
UNO meanwhile, is participating in its final SBC Tournament, as the program will no longer be affiliated with the conference at season's end. The Privateers finished with a league-worst 3-15 record during the regular season, and haven't won this event since 1996.
As for the all-time series, WKU leads UNO, 22-8, and has won eight straight in the rivalry, including a 76-56 decision during the regular season. The Hilltoppers are also 3-0 versus the Privateers in this event.
Scoring points has been an uphill battle for the Privateers this season, as they are managing just 59.3 ppg heading into the postseason. Bill Humphrey leads the team in scoring with 17.2 ppg over 14 games, but he hasn't played since early January due to a knee injury. That has put a scoring burden on the shoulders of Charles Carmouche, who turns in 12.3 ppg and 4.8 rpg. Carl Blair chips in with 9.0 ppg and he also grabs 4.5 rpg and distributes 3.6 apg for UNO.
The Hilltoppers have plenty of weapons to work with and A.J. Slaughter highlights four double-digit scorers. A first-team All-SBC selections, Slaughter paces WKU with 17.7 ppg, 4.5 apg and 51 steals. Sergio Kerusch and Steffphon Pettigrew check in with 14.9 ppg apiece and they duo are also combining for 13.1 rpg. Pettigrew started all but one game for WKU and he was also a second-team all-league choice. Jeremy Evans even gets into the mix for the Toppers, contributing with 10.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg.
WKU is peaking at the right time and should breeze into the quarterfinals with a decisive win tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 75, New Orleans 53
03/06 10:35:49 ET
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