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GAME NOTES: Hilltoppers visit rival Middle Tennessee

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — WKU Hilltopper Basketball continues a challenging three-game road stretch at rival Middle Tennessee at 5 p.m. CT Saturday in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The Hilltoppers (9-9, 3-2 Conference USA) are coming off a 72-54 road loss at UAB – their first conference road loss of the season – in which the Blazers won their 19th straight conference home game.

Middle Tennessee (14-3, 4-0) sits atop the league standings after a 69-57 win over Marshall on Thursday. WKU leads 93-39 in the series that dates back to 1914, although the Blue Raiders have won nine of the last 11. The Hilltoppers won last year’s matchup in Murfreesboro.

WKU head coach Rick Stansbury has never faced MTSU.

GAME 19

WKU (9-9, 3-2 C-USA) at Middle Tennessee (14-3, 4-0 C-USA)
January 14, 2017 | 5 p.m. (CT)
Murfreesboro, Tenn. | Murphy Center (11,520)

BROADCAST

Listen: Hilltopper IMG Sports Network (WKLX 100.7 FM flagship), TuneIn Radio (free) (Randy Lee, pxp | Hal Schmitt, analysis)
Watch: American Sports Network (WKU PBS) (Bernie Guenther, pxp | Mike Jarvis, analysis) (Online Stream)
Live Stats: Gametracker

QUICK SHOTS

• WKU has made at least one 3-pointer in 924 consecutive games, dating back to March 15, 1987. The 3-point shot was instituted prior to the 1986-87 season.
• WKU has had an even or better assist-to-turnover ratio in six of its last eight games, including four straight. The Hilltoppers accomplished that feat just twice in their first 10 games this season.
• WKU has made more free throws (273) than its opponents have attempted (259). The Hilltoppers’ 31 makes vs. North Carolina A&T were their most since netting 33 vs. Ball State on Feb. 22, 2003.
• Junior Justin Johnson has made 15 of 30 shots (.500) from 3-point range this year after netting just one 3-pointer over his first two seasons. His 55.4 percent career field goal shooting percentage would currently rank seventh in WKU history.
• Graduate senior Pancake Thomas has recorded 32 total assists with just nine turnovers over his last eight games. He had 17 assists and 14 turnovers across his first 10 games as a Hilltoppers. Thomas has 19 assists and just four turnovers in five C-USA games.
• Graduate senior Que Johnson shot 67.3 percent from the free-throw line with 17 assists and 29 turnovers in nonconference play. He’s shooting 82.6 percent from the stripe with 15 assists and seven turnovers in C-USA.
• In his first eight games as a Hilltopper, freshman Damari Parris went 4 of 18 from the field and missed all three of his 3-point attempts. In his last seven games, Parris has made 11 of 24 shots and gone 6 of 10 from deep.
• In WKU’s five conference games, reserve forwards Anton Waters and Jabari McGhee are a combined 31 of 56 from the field (55.4 percent).
• Justin Johnson and graduate transfer seniors Que Johnson, Pancake Thomas and Junior Lomomba have each started every game this season. WKU hasn’t had at least four players start every game in a season since the 2002-03 campaign.
• Que Johnson, Pancake Thomas and Junior Lomomba have all reached the 100th career game milestone this season. Senior Ben Lawson (96 games) is also nearing the benchmark.
• Justin Johnson needs 111 points this season to become the 49th player in Hilltopper Basketball history to score 1,000 career points.
• Pancake Thomas needs 37 points to reach 1,000 for his career across his time at New Mexico, Hartford and WKU. Que Johnson reached 1,000 points across his time at WKU and Washington State vs. Ohio on 12/21/16.
• Ben Lawson ranks fifth in WKU history with 160 career blocked shots, just one shy of tying Elgrace Wilborn for fourth. His 66 blocks in 2015-16 were the seventh-most in a season in Hilltopper history. Lawson joins Jeremy Evans, Elgrace Wilborn and Chris Marcus as Hilltoppers with at least 50 blocks in multiple seasons.

SIGNEES NAMED MCDONALD’S ALL AMERICAN NOMINEES

WKU Hilltopper Basketball’s 2017 signing class was honored in bulk this month, as each member of the three-player signing class was named a McDonald’s All American Game nominee. Five-star center Mitchell Robinson, four-star guard Josh Anderson and three-star guard Taveion Hollingsworth were all selected as nominees for the prestigious all-star game, which brings together the top high school talent in the nation and is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The final roster will be announced at 9:30 p.m. CT Sunday, Jan. 15 live on ESPNU. The McDonald’s All American Game is set for March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.

WKU has never had a McDonald’s All American in its storied basketball history. The Hilltoppers have a consensus top-15 signing class with their additions of Robinson, Anderson and Hollingsworth, who represent WKU’s first top-25 signing class in the modern era. The class is currently ranked eighth by Rivals, 10th by Scout and 15th by 247Sports. Robinson was also named one of 25 national candidates for the boys’ Naismith Trophy.

TAKING CARE OF THE CLASSROOM

Despite a changing coaching staff and large roster turnover, the Hilltoppers turned in a stellar academic effort in the Fall 2016 semester with a team GPA of 3.18. Nine players finished the semester with a GPA of 3.0 or better – including five players with at least a 3.5 – and all players finished with at least a 2.5 GPA.

MED CENTER HEALTH

The 2016-17 WKU Basketball season is presented by Med Center Health. With The Medical Center at its core, Med Center Health has served Southcentral Kentucky for 90 years, and its system of care includes six acute care hospitals, a complete network of immediate to emergency services and services in dozens of specialties. Whether it is emergency treatment for heart attack victims or preventative programs to improve the health of the communities it serves, Med Center Health is committed to providing the highest level of care and service.

How to follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper Basketball, follow the team’s social media channels, @WKUBasketball on Twitter, @WKUBasketball on Instagram, and WKU Basketball on Facebook.

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