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Arkansas State (12-17) at Western Kentucky (9-18)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 23rd, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: FCS, WKYU-PBS. Home Record: ASU 10-5, WKU 6-7. Away Record: ASU 2-12, WKU 3-8. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, WKU 0-3. Conference Record: ASU 6-9, WKU 5-9. Series Record: Western Kentucky leads, 28-12.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas State Red Wolves attempt to win three games in a row for the first time this season when they visit E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a Sun Belt Conference bout.
Arkansas State's season has been a struggle for the most part as it owns an overall record of just 12-17 and the team is in fifth place in the Sun Belt's West Division with a 6-8 conference mark. Things have been looking up for the Red Wolves however, as they have won back-to-back games against Troy and most recently FIU last Saturday, 77-67.
Western Kentucky's campaign has been an even rougher one, as it has lost twice as many games as it has won (9-18), and the squad is in fourth place in the East Division with a 5-9 league ledger. After going through a stretch where they won three of four games a few weeks ago, the Hilltoppers have reverted back to their losing ways, dropping three of their last four, including a 66-61 defeat at the hands of South Alabama last Saturday.
WKU leads the all-time series, 28-12, but ASU snapped a five-game Hilltopper win streak in the series by prevailing in an 81-73 final on January 1, 2011 in the most recent meeting.
After leading Arkansas State to a 2-0 record last week, guard Trey Finn was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week. The junior scored 20 points against both Troy and FIU while connecting on an impressive 10-of-18 from three-point range in the two games. The whole team was on fire in last Saturday's win, connecting on 53.2 percent of its total shots and though Finn took home the hardware, he was out-produced by Marcus Hooten against FIU, as he tallied a career-high 28 points on 9-of-12 accuracy from the field. The ASU offensive attack is led by a trio of double-digit scorers in Malcoln Kirkland (11.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Hooten (11.8 ppg) and Finn (10.5 ppg), though the Red Wolves rank eighth in the Sun Belt in scoring at 64 ppg. Arkansas State is efficient from beyond the arc however, knocking down 39.6 percent of its long- range attempts.
Though Ray Harper has been leading the team since January 6 on an interim basis, this will be his first game as the full-time head coach. Harper will be trying to get his squad to rebound from a loss last Saturday where it shot just 41.3 percent from the floor and 3-of-17 from three-point range. Derrick Gordon scored 16 points and grabbed nine boards in the defeat, while Jamal Crook added 14 points and Teeng Akol pitched in with 11 points. Gordon has been one of the lone bright spots for an offense that scores just 63.7 ppg on 38.7 percent shooting this season, averaging 11.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg. George Fant adds 9.4 ppg and a team-best 6.5 rpg to the mix. Though the Hilltoppers have made just two fewer three-pointers than Arkansas State, they have attempted nearly 100 more long-range shots and rank last in the conference in three- point field goal percentage (.296).
While neither team has been very impressive this season, WKU has shown improvement under Harper. That combined with ASU's atrocious road record (2-12) should spell good things for the Hilltoppers tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 68, Arkansas State 63
02/23 10:36:46 ET
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