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WKU earns #2 Seed in Sun Belt Tournament

WKU earns #2 Seed in Sun Belt Tournament

Posted on 08 March 2014 by Allen

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WKU is the second seed in next week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament in New Orleans, La., and will begin its defense of back-to-back tournament titles in the semifinals on Saturday at 4:30 PM (CT), the conference announced Saturday night.

As a result of finishing second in the conference in the regular season, WKU receives a double-bye to the semifinals. The other three teams on WKU’s side of the bracket are third-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette, sixth-seeded UT Arlington and seventh-seeded ULM. Georgia State is the top seed in the tournament and receives the other double-bye. Rounding out the field are fourth-seeded Arkansas State, fifth-seeded UALR and eighth-seeded Troy.

WKU is 13-9 all-time in semifinal action of the league tournament, and the Hilltoppers have now advanced to 10-straight tournament final fours and 23 in 32 years as a member of the conference.

With its 20-11 regular season and 12-6 mark in league play, WKU captured its first 20-win regular season since 2008-09 and best conference finish since winning the SBC East in 2008-09.

A tournament title in 2013-14 would give WKU two of the three instances of three-straight tournament championships in league history, joining the 1982-84 UAB Blazers and the 2001-03 Hilltoppers.

Should the 2013-14 Hilltoppers advance to the NCAA Tournament, it would mark the third time in WKU history the program has advanced to three-straight tournaments (1993-95; 2001-03).

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WKU defeats Louisiana-Lafayette 75-72

WKU defeats Louisiana-Lafayette 75-72

Posted on 07 March 2014 by Allen

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WKU closed out the home portion of the 2013-14 regular season with a 75-72 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Thursday night at E.A. Diddle Arena, securing the second seed and a double-bye to the semifinals in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament and notching the program’s 42nd 20-win season. The win improves WKU’s record to 20-10 overall and 12-5 in league play, and Louisiana-Lafayette falls to 19-11 and 10-7.

WKU moves to 17-4 under head coach Ray Harper in games played on or after February 21. WKU finishes the home slate with a 13-4 record at E.A. Diddle Arena, the program’s most home victories since winning 13 in both 2007-08 and 2008-09. The 42 20-win seasons rank eighth in NCAA history, and this 20-win season was the first to come in the regular season since 2008-09.

WKU was led by George Fant’s 18 points and nine rebounds, and Chris Harrison-Docks hit 10 free throws en route to 15 points. T.J. Price added 13 points and six rebounds, and senior O’Karo Akamune tied a career high with 10 points. Seniors Caden Dickerson and Brandon Harris also played their final home games in a WKU uniform and finished with five and three points, respectively. Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton led all scorers with 31 points, and he also had 13 rebounds.

Harrison-Docks hit a three-pointer at the buzzer in front of the Ragin’ Cajun bench to give WKU a 37-34 lead at the break in a back-and-forth first half featuring four ties and seven lead changes. Seven Hilltoppers scored in the first half, led by Trency Jackson and T. Price with seven points apiece. The Hilltoppers shot 51.7 percent in the first half (15-for-29) and held Louisiana-Lafayette to 35.3 percent shooting (12-for-34).

The Ragin’ Cajuns won the battle of the boards, 24-14, and Louisiana-Lafayette had 14 offensive rebounds that led to 12 second-chance points.

The biggest lead for either team was a 12-6 Louisiana-Lafayette lead with just 4:44 gone by in the game.

The start of the second half was played as close as the first half was, as neither team had a lead of more than four points for the first 12 minutes of the second period. After two Payton free throws to cut the WKU lead from four points to 55-53, the Hilltoppers scored six-straight to take its largest lead of the game at 61-53 with 5:28 to play in the game.

The Ragin’ Cajuns mustered one field goal in the next 90 seconds, and WKU kept a 61-55 lead at the under-4:00 media timeout.

Both teams hit big shot after big shot in the final four minutes, but WKU never lost the lead despite Louisiana-Lafayette coming within one possession three times in the final minute. Akamune split a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining to give WKU a 73-69 lead, and Steven Wronkoski came down and buried a triple with nine seconds left to bring the Ragin’ Cajuns within one at 73-72.

Harrison-Docks was fouled on the next inbounds play and calmly hit his ninth and 10th free throws of the night to secure the 75-72 WKU victory.

WKU finished the game shooting 41.8 percent (23-for-55), and WKU went 24-for-33 from the free throw line (.727) for its best outing percentage-wise in the last five games. Louisiana-Lafayette became just the fifth team this season to outrebound WKU in a game when it held a 47-35 advantage on the glass.

WKU committed just eight turnovers in the game and held the Ragin’ Cajuns to 36.2 percent shooting (25-for-69).

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WKU falls to UT Arlingtong 80-73

WKU falls to UT Arlingtong 80-73

Posted on 02 March 2014 by Allen

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WKU led by 11 points with 9:56 to play in the game, but UT Arlington rallied down the stretch and knocked off WKU 80-73 Saturday night in Arlington, Texas. The loss drops WKU to 19-10 overall and 11-5 in Sun Belt Conference play. UT Arlington improves to 13-15 overall and 8-8 in conference games. WKU is now 6-2 in conference road games.

Five Hilltoppers were in double figures, led by T.J. Price’s 17 points. Brandon Harris added 14, and Caden Dickerson, George Fant and Trency Jackson all added 11. Dickerson also had seven rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes in a game contested just 35 miles from his hometown of Argyle.

Reger Dowell, the Sun Belt Conference’s leading scorer, had 37 points in the game to lead all scorers.

En route to its most points in the first half in 16 games, WKU made its first eight shots while UT Arlington went 1-for-10 to start the game to open up a 20-5 lead out of the starting gate.

WKU led 26-9 at the under-12:00 media timeout on the strength of draining its first six three-point attempts of the game. UT Arlington followed with six-straight points to close to 26-15 with 9:26 left in the half, and the Mavericks had it to within six points at 38-32 with 2:01 left in the half.

But four-straight free throw shots by Harris sent WKU to the locker room with a 42-32 advantage. The Hilltoppers ended the half shooting 46.7 percent from the floor (14-for-30) and hit eight three-pointers, matching its high in a half this season. T. Price led WKU with nine points, and Chris Harrison-Docks had eight while Fant and Harris each had seven points. Dickerson contributed six points and three assists in 17 first-half minutes. Dowell led all scorers with 15 points in the opening 20 minutes.

UT Arlington attacked the basket to start the second half and cut the WKU lead to 46-40, but Dickerson buried a three-pointer and T. Price hit a long jumper to bring the lead back to double-digits at 51-40.

WKU led 60-49 before UT Arlington hit back-to-back three-pointers to make it 60-55, forcing WKU to call timeout with 8:47 to play.

The Mavericks kept clawing back, ultimately bringing the game within one point at 64-63 with 4:17 to play. After a jump ball alternate possession, UT Arlington took its first lead of the game at 65-64, before Jackson responded with a jumper to put WKU back on top.

But UT Arlington scored seven of the next eight points to open up a 74-67 lead, and WKU came no closer than five points down the stretch as the Mavericks rallied to win.

WKU finished the game shooting 43.6 percent (24-for-55) and hit 10-of-28 from behind the three-point arc (.357). WKU made just 55.6 percent of its foul shots (15-for-27), and UT Arlington scored 48 second-half points.

The Mavericks turned 14 WKU turnovers into 21 points.

UP NEXT

WKU returns to E.A. Diddle Arena for the final time in the 2013-14 regular season Thursday night at 7:00 (CT) against Louisiana-Lafayette. Thursday’s game will be televised by the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network, airing nationally on ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court and regionally on WKU PBS and WBNA. It will also be broadcast on the radio on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network, airing locally in Bowling Green on WKLX-FM Sam 100.7, with Randy Lee and Hal Schmitt on the call.

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Hilltoppers rally to beat Texas State 51-50

Hilltoppers rally to beat Texas State 51-50

Posted on 28 February 2014 by Allen

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For the fourth time this season and 11th time under head coach Ray Harper WKU came back from double-digits down to win, this time erasing a 12-point deficit and winning 51-50 at Texas State Thursday night. With the win, WKU improves to 19-9 overall and 11-4 in league play. Texas State drops to 8-20 and 4-11 with the defeat.

The win was the 50th of Harper’s WKU career, and the Hilltoppers are now 16-3 under the third-year head coach in games played on or after February 21. WKU has now won seven of its last eight Sun Belt Conference road games.

George Fant led WKU with 14 points, and T.J. Price had 11 second-half tallies while Trency Jackson finished with 10 points. Price also grabbed seven rebounds. Texas State was led by Joel Wright’s 15 points.

The first 20 minutes featured four ties and five lead changes, and Texas State led 25-22 at the break after a three-point play with less than half of a second remaining. Jackson led WKU with eight points, and Fant and Brandon Harris each had six. The Hilltoppers shot 35.0 percent in the first half (7-for-20), and Texas State converted at a 38.1 percent clip (8-for-21).

Each team had six first-half turnovers, but Texas State turned WKU’s miscues into 12 points while the Hilltoppers got just five points off Bobcat errors.

Texas State scored the first nine points of the second half, and WKU fell behind 34-22 before T. Price ended the drought with a bucket. With the score 36-24, WKU ripped off a 12-3 run and had the game within three points at 39-36 at the under-8:00 media timeout. During the sprint, T. Price poured in seven points and WKU went 5-for-7 from the field.

A T. Price jumper on the next possession had WKU within one point and capped off a 14-3 run, but Texas State had five of the next seven points to slow down the Hilltoppers and re-take a 44-40 lead.

After a timeout, Caden Dickerson buried a three-pointer in the corner to once again pull WKU within one point, 44-43. Chris Harrison-Docks followed with a coast-to-coast layup, and WKU took its first lead of the game since 22-20 in the first half at 45-44.

Three times in the final two minutes Texas State came within a point but each time WKU answered, starting with a Jackson layup and two huge buckets by Fant.

With the score 51-50 in favor of WKU Harrison-Docks missed the front-end of a one-and-one, but Texas State missed a layup on the other end and time expired with WKU on top.

WKU shot 46.4 percent in the second half (13-for-28) and finished the game at 41.7 percent (20-for-48). WKU won the battle of the boards, 32-31, and the Hilltoppers had just 10 turnovers.

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Hilltoppers Take Down ULM  72-63

Hilltoppers Take Down ULM 72-63

Posted on 23 February 2014 by Allen

WKU

An 18-1 lead to start the game proved to be more than enough for WKU Saturday night at E.A. Diddle Arena, as the Hilltopper led wire-to-wire and defeated ULM, 72-63. WKU improves to 18-9 overall and 10-4 in Sun Belt Conference play with the win, and ULM drops to 8-14 overall and 5-9 in league games.

Trency Jackson led all scorers with a career-high 25 points, and Daouda Soumaoro made his first-career start and grabbed a career-best eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Chris Harrison-Docks had 15 points, and George Fant added nine points and seven rebounds. ULM was led by Tylor Ongwae’s 19 points.

Sixty of WKU’s 72 points (83.3 percent) came from players other than Fant and T.J. Price, WKU’s Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team selections.

A PDF Box Score, Postgame Notes and Postgame Quotes are attached.

WKU exploded out of the gate, scoring 18 of the game’s first 19 points and starting 7-for-10 from the floor while ULM missed its first eight field goals. The Warhawks hit their first field goal at the 11:01 mark of the first half, but after that WKU missed six-straight field goals and ULM cut it within seven at 18-11.

WKU took a 39-24 lead into the break after shooting 44.1 percent in the first half (15-for-34). Jackson led all scorers with 12 points, and Harrison-Docks followed with eight tallies. The Hilltoppers led the battle of the boards, 25-14.

ULM trimmed the 15-point deficit to eight after just three-and-a-half minutes elapsed in the second half, but the Warhawks would get no closer than that as the clock wound down with WKU maintaining a double-digit lead for most of the second half.

The Hilltoppers finished the game shooting 39.7 percent as a team (23-for-58), and ULM converted at a 42.9 percent clip (21-for-49). WKU had its best rebounding advantage of the season at plus-15, 43-28, and the Hilltoppers had just six turnovers after having only five the last time out against South Alabama.

The Hilltoppers never trailed in the game for the second time in the last three contests.

WKU has now beaten ULM in seven-straight meetings dating back to the 2010-11 season and has never lost to the Warhawks in Bowling Green.

HEAD COACH CORNER

WKU head coach Ray Harper:

“Daouda (Soumaoro) is a guy with a great attitude. I’ve been around this game for a long time, and the one thing you don’t want as a coach is guys that are selfish or that care more about themselves than the team. I’ve never once walked in the locker room after a win where he wasn’t the happiest guy in the locker room and after a loss where he wasn’t the most disappointed. He’s a guy who never plays but he kept coming to work every day. I’ve always told guys, you will get an opportunity at some point in the season and be ready for when that comes. It’s much like a job. You never know when that opportunity is going to come to you, so be prepared. He was prepared. It couldn’t happen to a better kid, on his birthday, to get his first start.”

ULM head coach Keith Richard:

“The start was really hard for us. That kind of deficit is extremely difficult. They came out blazing, and we couldn’t score. Then we finally settled into the game and got back in it. I want to take this time to compliment Western Kentucky. One day soon, I hope our program can be like their program. What I mean by that is they have a bunch of tough kids, they fight tough, and they coach tough. They don’t have to shoot well every night to win. Matter of fact, they don’t. They go off of offensive rebounds, they get to the free throw line, and they guard you. They play a tough man’s style of basketball, and that’s a tribute to Ray (Harper), his staff and those players. They shoot 39% from the field tonight, which is not very good. They shoot 34% from the three, which is average, and they shoot 53% from the free throw line, which is not very good, and they win by nine. They’ve been doing that all year. They’ve been doing it in our conference with 10 wins. I hope one day we can do that and move forward with our program.”

UP NEXT

WKU hits the road next week for two games in Texas, beginning Thursday at 7:00 PM (CT) at Texas State. Thursday’s game will be televised on WKU PBS in the Bowling Green area. It will also be broadcast on the radio on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network, airing locally in Bowling Green on WKLX-FM Sam 100.7, with Randy Lee and Hal Schmitt on the call.

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Noble Named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week as WKU Picks Up 75th All-Time POW Honor

Noble Named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week as WKU Picks Up 75th All-Time POW Honor

Posted on 17 February 2014 by Allen

WKU

Redshirt freshman Kendall Noble has been named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week, it was announced on Monday by the league offices. It is the 75th such honor in the history of the WKU program.

Learn more about Freshman All-America Candidate Kendall Noble at www.wkusports.com/noble

Noble becomes just the fourth WKU freshman to ever win the honor, joining Tandreia Green (Jan. 11 during 1986-87 season), Carla Bartee (Jan. 26 during 2003-04 season) and Crystal Kelly (Dec. 14 and Feb. 15 during 2004-05 season) as freshman to receive the award.

WKU has now won four Player of the Week honors in the same season for the second consecutive season. It is the first time WKU has had four winners in consecutive seasons since WKU achieved the feat in four straight years from 2004-05 through 2007-08. All-time, WKU has taken home Player of the Week honors on four or more occasions in the same season nine times.

Noble had a dominant week in every facet of the game, averaging 19.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while compiling 10 assists, two blocks and 14 steals in two big wins over Troy and South Alabama.

In Wednesday’s 93-66 win over Troy, Noble had one of the most versatile performances by a player in the nation this season as she piled up 26 points in 33 minutes while grabbing eight rebounds, five assists and six steals with a block. Noble is one of just four players in the nation to post 26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 6 steals in a women’s basketball game this season. In Saturday’s 81-55 win over South Alabama, WKU’s largest over South Alabama since 1999, Noble had eight steals, five assists, four rebounds and 12 points. Her eight steals marked just the fifth time that a WKU player has had eight steals or more in a game.

Noble’s defensive effort, including 14 steals, helped WKU hold Troy and South Alabama to 19 and 18 points in the opening half of play in the two wins this week. Noble was a key cog in holding Troy’s Joanna Harden without a field goal in the first half of Wednesday’s game (two points on two free throws). Noble and WKU’s defense did not allow a field goal from Harden when the WKU lead was under 27 points.

Noble is one of only two freshman in the country to average 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals in conference games this season.

WKU (16-8, 8-5) returns to action next Saturday when the Lady Toppers face ULM in E.A. Diddle Arena for the annual Critter Classic. Fans that bring Clay Cat Litter, Clorox Wipes, Bleach or Liquid Washing Machine Detergent in support of the BGWC Humane Society to the game will receive a complimentary ticket to the game. Tipoff is set for 2:00 p.m. CT. on Feb. 22, 2014.

Single-game tickets for the remainder of the 2013-14 season are currently available for purchase by contacting the WKU Ticket Office. For more information, visit www.wkusports.com, call 1-800-5-BIG-RED or visit the ticket office in E.A. Diddle Arena.

Tickets for the 2014 Men’s and Women’s Sun Belt Basketball Tournament are also on sale through the WKU Ticket Office. Each ticket book contains eight tickets. There are a total of eight sessions, with sessions 1-6 including two games and session seven being the Women’s Championship and session eight being the Men’s Championship. The ticket price is $99 and seats are general admission.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE LADY TOPPERS: For complete information on Lady Topper Basketball, visit www.wkusports.com, follow the program on Instagram via “LadyTopperHoops” or follow the program on Twitter via @LadyTopperHoops. The official twitter hashtag of the 2013-14 season for Lady Topper Basketball is #ClimbingTheLadder.

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Scores

Temple 37 Vanderbilt 7 F
Alabama 33 West Virginia 23 F
Arkansas 21 Auburn 45 F
LSU 28 Wisconsin 24

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