BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Sixteen home games and several challenging road contests highlight the WKU men’s basketball team’s full schedule for the 2016-17 season, as announced by head coach Rick Stansbury on Friday.
The Hilltoppers welcome Austin Peay, Ohio, North Carolina A&T, Alabama State and Jacksonville State to E.A. Diddle Arena in nonconference contests as the program enters a new era under Stansbury.
The Hilltoppers will be well-tested on the road with trips to regional rivals Belmont, Eastern Kentucky and Indiana State, as well as Saint Mary’s (CA), Detroit and SEC foe Missouri. They will also play two games in the Global Sports Classic in Las Vegas, starting against Washington on the day after Thanksgiving. The Hilltoppers will then square off with either UNLV or TCU.
Three of WKU’s six true road trips in the nonconference portion – Belmont, Eastern Kentucky and Indiana State – are within 215 miles of Bowling Green.
WKU will kick off its season with exhibition games against Campbellsville (Nov. 1) and Kentucky Wesleyan (Nov. 5). Campbellsville is Stansbury’s alma mater where he was a four-year letterman and got his coaching start as a student assistant. Stansbury received Campbellsville’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1999 and was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
After the Stansbury Era begins at WKU with the exhibitions, the Hilltoppers open the regular season at home with games against Alabama State (Nov. 12) and Jacksonville State (Nov. 16). Those games are considered campus-site contests within the Global Sports Classic.
WKU then hits the road to face Belmont on Nov. 19 in the third matchup of a four-year series. The Bruins reached the NIT last season and were upset in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament by Austin Peay, which visits Diddle Arena later in the slate.
After hosting North Carolina A&T on Nov. 22, the Hilltoppers head west to Las Vegas for their first-ever meeting with Washington on Nov. 25 in the opening game of the Global Sports Classic. The Huskies also made the NIT last season.
WKU will face either UNLV or TCU in its second game in Las Vegas on Nov. 26, then continue the road trip with a Nov. 30 visit to Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels and Hilltoppers have played 155 times dating back to 1914-15, with WKU holding a 112-43 edge. WKU’s 112 victories are its most against any opponent.
WKU stays on the road for trips to Missouri (Dec. 3) and Saint Mary’s (Dec. 14) ¬– both first-time matchups – followed by a visit to Detroit (Dec. 17).
Saint Mary’s went 29-6 last year and won the West Coast Conference regular-season title before falling to Gonzaga in the conference tournament final. The Gaels advanced to the NIT quarterfinals and finished the season at 29th in the RPI.
Saint Mary’s will make a return trip to Diddle Arena in the 2018-19 season, joining Big Ten Conference power Wisconsin as December foes on that home slate.
After visiting Detroit on Dec. 17, the Hilltoppers return home to welcome Ohio on Dec. 21. The Bobcats, who haven’t played WKU since the 1960 NCAA Tournament, won 23 games last season and finished with an RPI of 86.
The Hilltoppers close the nonconference slate Dec. 28 at home against Austin Peay, which made a late run to the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Stansbury was an assistant at Austin Peay from 1985-90.
WKU begins the previously announced Conference USA schedule Dec. 31 at Florida Atlantic.
Home games against six of the top seven finishers in C-USA last season highlight the conference slate. The Hilltoppers will play home-and-home series with four of the top five finishers in C-USA last season — UAB, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and Marshall. The 18-game conference slate also includes a home-and-home series with Charlotte and single games against the other eight teams in the league.
The C-USA Tournament will be held March 8-11 in Birmingham, Ala., and will include the top 12 teams in the league standings.
C-USA’s television partners could still ask for date changes to accommodate broadcast schedules. Game times will be announced at a later date.
WKU welcomes many new faces to the roster this season, including immediate-impact graduate transfer guards Que Johnson, Junior Lomomba and Pancake Thomas.
The Hilltoppers also return two other seniors, forwards Ben Lawson and Anton Waters, as well as junior forward Justin Johnson, who last season became the first WKU player to lead the program in both scoring and rebounding since Derrick Gordon in 2011-12.
The squad will take its guidance from first-year coach Stansbury, who boasts 293 victories and a career home winning percentage of better than 80 percent in his 14 years at the helm at Mississippi State. Stansbury holds a 26-5 career record as a head coach against teams on WKU’s 2016-17 schedule.
The Hilltoppers are 573-162 all-time at Diddle Arena and are one of the nation’s most storied programs. WKU ranks third in NCAA history in regular-season league titles (42), seventh in 20-win seasons (43), ninth in all-time winning percentage (.663) and is tied for 16th in all-time wins (1,737).
Season Tickets Now Available: Season tickets for WKU Hilltopper Basketball begin at just $99 per person and are now on sale through the WKU Ticket Office. Fans can take advantage of the “Big Red Family Plan,” which includes four reserved seats in Diddle Arena Section 201 for just $340 total. Call 1-800-5-BIG-RED or visit WKUSports.com to lock in tickets today.
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.