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GAME NOTES: Tops prep for final road swing

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Just two games out of third place in the league, WKU Hilltopper Basketball begins its final road swing of the season at Charlotte at 6 p.m. CT Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.

The Hilltoppers (13-14, 7-7 Conference USA) are coming off a 76-64 home victory over UAB on Sunday. In three of its last four victories, WKU has never trailed.

Charlotte (11-14, 5-9) has lost five of its last six games, but the 49ers played WKU tough in the Hilltoppers’ 82-80 win in Bowling Green on Jan. 5. WKU leads the all-time series 17-9 but trails 5-7 on the road.

WKU head coach Rick Stansbury is 3-1 all-time against Charlotte.

GAME 28

WKU (13-14, 7-7 C-USA) at Charlotte (11-14, 5-9 C-USA)
February 23, 2017 | 6 p.m. (CT)
Charlotte, N.C. | Halton Arena (9,105)

BROADCAST

Listen: Hilltopper IMG Sports Network (WKLX 100.7 FM flagship), TuneIn Radio (free) (Randy Lee, pxp | Hal Schmitt, analysis)
Watch: Campus Insiders (online stream) (Jeff Fischel, pxp | Tim Scarborough, analysis)
Live Stats: Charlotte Stats

QUICK SHOTS

• WKU has made at least one 3-pointer in 933 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 12 of its last 17 games, including 10 of the last 13. The Hilltoppers accomplished that feat just twice in their first 10 games this season.
• WKU has attempted 174 more free throws (554) and made 104 more (373) than its opponents. 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 21 of 52 shots (.404) from 3-point range this year after netting just one 3-pointer over his first two seasons. His 55.9 percent career field goal shooting percentage would currently rank fifth in WKU history, and his 57 shooting percentage in league play leads C-USA. Johnson is averaging 17.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists over his last eight games.
• Justin Johnson is the first Hilltopper with at least four games of 14-plus rebounds in a season since Nigel Dixon in 2003-04. He could become the first WKU player to shoot at least 50 percent from the field and make at least 20 3-pointers in a season since Orlando Mendez-Valdez in 2006-07.
• Graduate senior Pancake Thomas has recorded 55 total assists with just 21 turnovers over his last 16 games. He had 17 assists and 14 turnovers across his first 10 games as a Hilltoppers. Thomas ranks third in C-USA in league play with a 2.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
• 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 80.9 percent from the stripe with 33 assists and 25 turnovers in C-USA.
• In WKU’s 14 conference games, senior forward Anton Waters is shooting 56.4 percent from the field with seven assists and 10 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.
• Justin Johnson became the 49th member of WKU’s 1,000-point club on Feb. 11 against Marshall, and he now ranks 43rd 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.
• 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.
• Senior forward Ben Lawson ranks fourth in WKU history with 176 career blocked shots. Lawson joins Wilborn, Jeremy Evans and Chris Marcus as Hilltoppers with at least 50 blocks in multiple seasons. With two more blocks, he’ll join Evans as the only Tops with three seasons of at least 50 blocks.

LAST GAME AGAINST CHARLOTTE: JANUARY 5, 2017

Que Johnson hit the go-ahead jumper with 25 seconds left and Pancake Thomas iced it with a pair of free throws with five seconds left in Western Kentucky’s 82-80 win over Charlotte at E.A. Diddle Arena. Johnson and Thomas finished with 14 points each for the Hilltoppers, who won their fifth straight.

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.

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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