IUPUI (3-7) at Western Kentucky (7-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: HSSN, ESPN3.com. Home Record: IUPUI 2-1, WKU 4-0. Away Record: IUPUI 0-4, WKU 1-1. Neutral Record: IUPUI 1-2, WKU 1-1. Conference Record: IUPUI 0-2, WKU 2-0. Series Record: Tied 1-1.
GAMES NOTES: In a non-conference pairing the streaking Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will host the IUPUI Jaguars at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Jaguars are also streaking, though in the wrong direction. After an 87-55 loss to Butler on Wednesday IUPUI has lost three straight games and six straight against Division I opponents. Three of those losses came on the road where the Jaguars have been particularly weak this year with four losses in as many tries. IUPUI has a short two-game home stint next on the schedule beginning against IU Northwest.
On the other side Western Kentucky could not be more hot. The Hilltoppers have won five straight games after surviving a scare from Southern Illinois. That win also came at E.A. Diddle Arena where the Hilltoppers have won nine straight and all four contests this season. Even in its losses Western Kentucky has been competitive with an average margin of defeat of 5.5 points. A three-game road trip awaits Western Kentucky following this game beginning against Murray State.
These teams have split the only other two meetings between them, including an IUPUI win (84-76) last season.
IUPUI just couldn't keep pace with Butler on the offensive end of the floor in its loss to the Bulldogs. The Jaguars hit on 43.2 percent of their shots, but that was no match for the 55.6 percent clip Butler converted. IUPUI also got lit up from beyond the arc as the Jaguars were outscored 33-15 from 3-point range. Donovan Gibbs and Mitchell Patton each scored 10 points to lead all IUPUI scorers.
In losses IUPUI has not been able to create much defensive pressure. The team has given up at least 79 points in all seven losses and is allowing 76.4 points per game overall. Opponents are also shooting 47.2 percent from the field which is nearly three percentage points higher than what the Jaguars turn in on the other end (44.4 FG percentage). IUPUI has also been unable to control the boards with a -5.4 deficit in rebounding. John Hart (15.6 ppg) is the top scorer on the squad but was held to just seven points against Butler. He has the ability to erupt however with two games of 20 or more points. Patton (14.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) scores well on the interior connecting on 57.3 percent of his shots. Donovan Gibbs (9.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg) isn't a dominate interior player but puts up solid numbers on a regular basis.
Western Kentucky never trailed against Southern Illinois but on more than one occasion risked the lead. The Salukis came within a point four separate times in the final minutes of the game but the Hilltoppers had just enough to pull out the win. The Hilltoppers shot 47.8 percent in the game and overcame a game-high 15 turnovers. T.J. Price paced the Hilltoppers with 17 points, while George Fant nearly had a double-double (12 points, nine rebounds).
The offensive showing Western Kentucky had, at least in terms of points scored, was below the Hilltoppers' normal standards. Western Kentucky has scored 69.7 points per game this season, shooting at a 42.5 percent clip. Controlling the boards has been a major facet of the Hilltoppers' early success with the team ripping down 41.1 rebounds per game, the 26th best mark in the country. That has earned Western Kentucky a +7.5 edge in rebounding. Price (16.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Jamal Crook (14.4 ppg, 4.1 apg) give the Hilltoppers a stellar backcourt duo to run the team. On the interior Fant (11.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg) has been solid but could improve on his finishing (44.6 FG percentage), considering he primarily plays around the basket.
The road woes of IUPUI are well documented as is the success Western Kentucky has enjoyed at home. There is little going for IUPUI that indicates the Hilltoppers can't keep their home dominance alive.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 77, IUPUI 67
12/08 10:37:38 ET