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GAME NOTES: Toppers host MTSU for Red Out game

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Hilltopper Basketball continues its longest homestand of the season against rival Middle Tennessee at 8 p.m. CT Thursday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Hilltoppers (12-13, 6-6 Conference USA) are coming off an 84-79 loss to Marshall on Saturday. Thursday’s game vs. Middle Tennessee will be a Red Out.

MTSU (22-4, 12-1) has lost just one game in league play – a road defeat at UTEP – but has powered through the rest of the conference, including a 91-76 victory over WKU on Jan. 14 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

WKU leads 93-40 in the series that dates back to 1914, although the Blue Raiders have won 10 of the last 12. WKU head coach Rick Stansbury is 0-1 against the Blue Raiders.

GAME 26

Middle Tennessee (22-4, 12-1 C-USA) at WKU (12-13, 6-6 C-USA)
February 16, 2017 | 8 p.m. (CT)
Bowling Green, Ky. | E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326)

BROADCAST

Listen: Hilltopper IMG Sports Network (WKLX 100.7 FM flagship), TuneIn Radio (free) (Randy Lee, pxp | Hal Schmitt, analysis)
Watch: CBS Sports Network (John Sadak, pxp | Chris Walker, analysis)
Live Stats: Gametracker

QUICK SHOTS

• Justin Johnson became the 49th member of WKU’s 1,000-point club on Feb. 11 against Marshall, and he now ranks 47th on WKU’s all-time scoring list. Graduate transfers Que Johnson and Pancake Thomas also reached 1,000 career points this season, giving the Hilltoppers three players with 1,000 career points for the first time since A.J. Slaughter, Jeremy Evans and Steffphon Pettigrew in 2009-10.
• WKU has made at least one 3-pointer in 931 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 10 of its last 15 games, including eight of the last 11. The Hilltoppers accomplished that feat just twice in their first 10 games this season.
• WKU has made more free throws (358) than its opponents have attempted (353). 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 20 of 47 shots (.426) from 3-point range this year after netting just one 3-pointer over his first two seasons. His 56 percent career field goal shooting percentage would currently rank fifth in WKU history, and his 57.6 shooting percentage in league play is second in C-USA. Johnson is averaging 17.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists over his last six games, and shooting 60.2 percent in his last nine.
• Graduate senior Pancake Thomas has recorded 48 total assists with just 20 turnovers over his last 15 games. He had 17 assists and 14 turnovers across his first 10 games as a Hilltoppers. In Conference USA play, Thomas is tied for fourth in the league with a 2.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
• In 13 games since the holiday break, Pancake Thomas is averaging 14.9 points per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range.
• 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 82.9 percent from the stripe with 31 assists and 22 turnovers in C-USA.
• In WKU’s 12 conference games, senior forward Anton Waters is shooting 58.5 percent from the field with seven assists and nine turnovers. He shot 48.3 percent with two assists and 17 turnovers in nonconference play.
• 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, Junior Lomomba and Ben Lawson have all reached the 100th career game milestone this season. Lawson played his 100th game as a Hilltopper against UTSA on Jan. 28, 2017.
• Ben Lawson ranks fourth in WKU history with 171 career blocked shots. Lawson joins Wilborn, Jeremy Evans and Chris Marcus as Hilltoppers with at least 50 blocks in multiple seasons.

PROMOTIONS

Red Out: First 2,000 fans receive a free Red Towel!
Red Out Shirt Giveaway: First 1,000 students receive a free Red Out shirt!
Big Red’s Rascals Night: All members of Big Red’s Rascals will receive a complimentary reserved ticket for them and a friend to the game, and all other friends and family may purchase additional tickets for just $5 a piece. Mister B’s Weekday Two-Pack: Two tickets to the game and a small pizza for $25. Offer valid online and at the Diddle Box Office (while supplies last).

TICKETS

WKU Ticket Office: Online at WKUTickets.com, in person at E.A. Diddle Arena, via phone at 1-800-5-BIG Red or 745-5222 locally.

LAST GAME AGAINST MIDDLE TENNESSEE: JANUARY 14, 2017

Pancake Thomas led the Hilltoppers with 23 points, but it would not be enough as Western Kentucky fell to Middle Tennessee by a score of 91-76 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. JaCorey Williams was 12 of 19 from the floor for 27 points as Middle Tennessee sprinted to an early lead. Both teams were hot from the field but the Blue Raiders hit seven more field goals than Western Kentucky.

ROBINSON NAMED WKU’S FIRST MCDONALD’S ALL AMERICAN

WKU signee Mitchell Robinson was named a McDonald’s All American on Jan. 27, the first in program history. Robinson – a 7-foot, five-star center from Chalmette (La.) High School – is one of 24 players nationally selected for the prestigious all-star game, which brings together the top high school talent across the country and is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The final roster was announced live on ESPNU, with Robinson selected for the East squad. 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. Robinson is the first McDonald’s All American from Conference USA since Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin in 2012. Robinson is also the sixth McDonald’s All American signed by WKU’s Rick Stansbury as a head coach, joining standouts Mario Austin, Renardo Sidney, Monta Ellis, Travis Outlaw and Jonathan Bender from Stansbury’s tenure at Mississippi State. Fellow WKU signees Josh Anderson and Taveion Hollingsworth were also nominated for the McDonald’s All American Game.

Robinson was also recently named one of 25 midseason candidates for the boys’ high school Naismith Trophy, as presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. At the end of January, Robinson was named one of 24 players for the Jordan Brand Classic, another star-studded all-star game that takes place April 14 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Previous participants include LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.

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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