Western Kentucky (2-1) vs. Iowa (4-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 20, 9:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Moon Palace Resort (990) -- Cancun, Mexico. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: WKU 2-0, Iowa 4-0. Away Record: WKU 0-1, Iowa 0-0. Neutral Record: WKU 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Iowa Hawkeyes and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will close out the first day of action at the Moon Palace Resort when they square off in the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday.
This will be the first time these two programs ever meet on the basketball court. Whichever team comes out on top will advance to face either DePaul or Wichita State, depending on the results of the earlier games. The losers will also square off in the consolation round.
The Hawkeyes come in with a perfect 4-0 record due to a huge rally on Saturday versus Gardner-Webb. The Runnin' Bulldogs jumped out to a 23-point lead in the opening half before Iowa staged a comeback. After making only 5-of-25 field goal attempts in the first 20 minutes, Iowa knocked down 50 percent of its shots from the floor including 6-of-13 from beyond the arc to close out the contest. Coach Fran McCaffery's team is very young and lacks a senior in the starting five.
After an exhausting 67-64 overtime loss to Southern Miss in its season opener, Western Kentucky picked up its two wins in the mainland portion of the Cancun Challenge by cruising past Austin Peay and Western Carolina in Bowling Green. The Hilltoppers' back-to-back triumphs gave them wins in the first two home games of the season for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The only tournament game WKU has lost under Ray Harper was to Kentucky in last season's NCAA Tournament.
Iowa's strong start to the season is largely due to a focus on the defensive end of the floor. After allowing opponents to post 72.5 ppg last season, the Hawkeyes are giving up only 52 per game. Offensively, Roy Devyn Marble is pacing the team with 15.5 points per game on 44.2 percent shooting from the field due to a 22-point outing versus Howard. Forward Aaron White (14.8 ppg) is not as explosive as Devyn Marble, but his consistently active play inside has given him healthy averages of eight rebounds and 10.3 free throw attempts per contest. None of the other Hawkeyes are scoring in double figures as playing time has been spread out in the three lopsided wins. Freshman center Adam Woodbury may be a future star in the middle. The 7-1 rookie is 12-of-17 from the floor to start his career.
The Hilltoppers are one of the best teams in the Sun Belt Conference this season due to the tenacious trio of Jamal Crook, T.J. Price, and George Fant. Its last time out, WKU had no answer for Western Carolina's Trey Sumler, who went on to score 25 points in the contest. However, Crook and Price stepped up to pour in 26 points each to keep the Catamounts at bay. Fant added 12 points in the win. Teeng Akol is going to be crucial for WKU versus Iowa. The 6-11 center from the Sudan is a fierce interior defender that will make it difficult for Woodbury. Akol also made an impact on the offensive end with 10 points in 16 minutes his last time out.
Harper showed that he has the ability to rally the troops at the end of last season. WKU has enough in its arsenal to knock off Iowa, especially due to the amount of inexperience of the black and yellow. The Hawkeyes can not afford to fall behind by a huge margin against what will be a feisty opponent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 73, Western Kentucky 70
11/20 10:34:57 ET