Dec 14, 2013; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Stephan Van Treese (44) shoots against Western Kentucky Hilltoppers center Aleksej Rostov (20) and guard T.J. Price (52) during the second half at the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville defeated Western Kentucky 79-63. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

GAMEDAY: 31st BB&T Classic - WKU vs. Arkansas St.

Well folks, just a couple of days after one of the most exciting games we have seen the Tops play this season, it is time for the action to occur again! Not just the Men’s team takes the court today, but the Lady Tops hit the Diddle hardwood as well for the 31st BB&T Classic! So let’s cut to the chase and break down both of the Topper match ups against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

First off with the Ladies! The Lady Tops enter this evening’s match-up with a 3-1 SBC record with a number 2 rank in the Sun Belt, while also coming off a blowout victory against middle of the Sun Belt Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans! The Lady Red Wolves look to provide quite a challenge for the Tops! Arkansas State brings with them a 4-1 SBC record and a number one ranking in the Sun Belt. The Lady Wolves have had a tough season outside of the SBC, some quality losses include eleventh ranked North Carolina, Illinois, Arizona State, Wichita State, and Texas A&M. Their SBC wins include Texas-Arlington, Texas State, Troy, and South Alabama, with the one loss coming to Georgia State.

Some of the Red Wolves standouts include Sophomore Guard Aundrea Gamble as she averages 18.2 PPG along with 6.2 RPG and 3.9 APG. Another is Sophomore Forward Jalen O’Bannon as she knocks down 10.8 PPG along with grabbing 6.9 RPG. As a team A-State shoots 43%, along with a percentage of 34% from behind the three point perimeter. As for free throws the Red Wolves shoot around 70%, so they aren’t too lethal. However in a tight matchup they look to be a team you may not want to send to the line.

I look for Michele Clark-Heard’s squad to be rolling on all cylinders after their previous blowout win against the Trojans. Of course I believe two time SBC Player of the Week Chastity Gooch will be huge in this crucial matchup. Gooch currently averages 16.9 PPG along with 10 RPG. During WKU’s current 3-game win streak Gooch has averaged 21 points per contest. The Hilltoppers as a team shoot 43%, along with a three point percentage of 34%. From the charity strike WKU shoots 68%. Those averages look pretty similar to the Red Wolves’ stats don’t they?

These two teams will begin the BB&T Classic and Tip-Off in Diddle at 4:30! This looks to be the first of two games in Diddle tonight that you won’t want to miss!

Now for Round 2 on the evening! The Men’s side of things looks to take form just as the women’s, two evenly matched teams at the top of the SBC!

Arkansas State comes into tonight’s matchup with a 10-6 record overall and 3-2 during SBC play. They enter with a 3rd overall rank in the Sun Belt, just behind Arkansas-Little Rock (who beat WKU in Diddle Thursday night). Their conference games include wins against Texas-Arlington, Texas State, and South Alabama. With their sole conference loss coming in the stunning Troy game when the Trojans went on a dominating shooting clinic.

Some of the Red Wolves’ key players I look to have big games include Senior Forward Kirk Van Slyke. Slyke has been putting up 17.6 PPG along with 6.4 RPG. Helping him along so far has been Senior Guard Melvin Johnson III, as he is averaging 14.1 PPG while grabbing 4.4 RPG as well. As a team the Red Wolves have a pretty steady stroke as they knock down 46% of their shots. Their 3pt range is effective as well as they drain 39% from behind the arc. To finish A-State’s shooting round up, the Red Wolves knock down 71% when they step up to the charity strike. As far as rebounding goes the post men do their job and provide a presence down low.

Now for WKU! Despite not having their leading scorer in thursday night’s matchup against UALR, the Tops put on a good show and could have easily won the game. Heading into tonight the Tops have lost three consecutive home games, which is shocking with how good the Tops started the season out in Diddle. Nevertheless, the Tops look to end that streak tonight as they try to improve to 19-2 all time when playing the Red Wolves on the Diddle hardwood.

In order for the Tops to get the win tonight they need to be able to defend the field quite well! They also need to stay out of foul trouble for two reasons. The first reason being limiting the number of FT shots the Red Wolves take in order to make the FT line less lethal than it has been in games here of late against WKU. Second, is with the accumulating number of fouls the Tops begin to lose key players. Prime example of that occurring was thursday night when George Fant had to sit early in the second half due to four fouls. That caused a lacking post presence that Fant had been giving all night long. Next key point I’d like to mention is the same sermon and principle I preach day in and day out. That being offensive boards, and being sure to capitalize on those boards when they are found. Secondly is being able to limit turnovers. Thursday against the Trojans WKU only had 11 offensive boards, which didn’t allow easy put-backs to create quick points (which WKU will need to have against this A-State team). The Tops committed 13 turnover’s against UALR, and that is a number that doesn’t need to be seen tonight. The Red Wolves are a team that can and WILL capitalize on turnovers, and the Tops can’t allow too many extra possessions against this caliber of a team.

WKU will definitely have a tough one tonight and I predict it will go down to the wire just like thursday night! As for the starting line-up for the Tops? I don’t have a clue! Especially after the curveball of a line-up Coach Harper sent our way the other night! We will just have to see when things get going! The action tips-off at 7 PM so make sure to come on out for an intense matchup!

Don’t forget the Lady Tops will get things started at 4:30 to tip-off the 31st BB&T Classic! We hope to see everyone up on the Hill this evening as both games will be classic high intensity conference games! If you can’t make it to the Hill the men’s game will for sure be televised on ESPN 3 or on WKU PBS in the Bowling Green area. I will have the post game reports coming your way as soon as I can after the night concludes! Until that time, Hilltopper Nation Stand Up and Cheer!!

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Tags: Arkansas State Red Wolves Basketball Gameday Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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