BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Hilltopper Basketball enters the postseason as the No. 8 seed in the 2017 C-USA Men’s Basketball Championship presented by MetroPCS, opening play against No. 9 seed UTSA at 11:30 a.m. CT Wednesday in the first round in Birmingham, Ala.
Since WKU (15-16) moved to the Sun Belt Conference in 1983, the Hilltoppers are 11-5 in the opening round of conference tournament play. WKU has advanced to the semifinals of its league tournament in 11 of the last 12 seasons, including a run to the 2016 Conference USA Tournament semifinals. The team is 21-5 with four championships in the last nine conference tournaments overall.
UTSA (13-18) has lost five of its last seven games, but the Roadrunners closed the regular season with a 73-55 win over Old Dominion.
The Hilltoppers beat UTSA 81-66 on Jan. 28, improving WKU to 3-0 all-time in the series. WKU head coach Rick Stansbury is 1-0 in his career against the Roadrunners.
No. 9 UTSA (13-18) vs. No. 8 WKU (15-16)
Conference USA Tournament First Round
March 8, 2017 | 11:30 a.m. (CT)
Birmingham, Ala. | Legacy Arena
Listen: Hilltopper IMG Sports Network (WKLX 100.7 FM flagship), TuneIn Radio (free) (Randy Lee, pxp | Hal Schmitt, analysis)
Watch: Campus Insiders (online stream) (Ray Crawford, pxp | Jordan Cornette, analysis)
Live Stats: Gametracker
• WKU has made at least one 3-pointer in 937 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 14 of its last 21 games, including 12 of the last 17. The Hilltoppers accomplished that feat just twice in their first 10 games this season.
• WKU has attempted 187 more free throws (635) and made 107 more (426) 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 25 of 64 shots (.391) from 3-point range this year after netting just one 3-pointer over his first two seasons. His 55.7 percent career field goal shooting percentage would currently rank seventh in WKU history, and his 56.2 percent shooting percentage in league play leads C-USA. Johnson is averaging 16.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists over his last 12 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.
• Justin Johnson leads C-USA in rebounding (9.2 per game) and double-doubles (13) and is in the top 40 nationally in both. His 13 double-doubles are the most by a Hilltopper since Juan Pattillo’s 13 in 2010-11, and his 23 career double-doubles are the most by a WKU player since Sergio Kerusch tallied 24 from 2008-11.
• Graduate senior Pancake Thomas has recorded 64 total assists with just 28 turnovers over his last 20 games. He had 17 assists and 14 turnovers across his first 10 games as a Hilltoppers.
• Pancake Thomas has 10 games this season with at least four made 3s, including eight of his last 14. He’s tied for ninth in WKU history for most made 3s in a season with 75.
• 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 81.1 percent from the stripe with 37 assists and 27 turnovers since.
• In WKU’s 18 conference games, senior forward Anton Waters shot 58.8 percent from the field with eight assists and 18 turnovers. He shot 48.3 percent with two assists and 17 turnovers in nonconference play.
• Justin Johnson became the 49th member of WKU’s 1,000-point club on Feb. 11 against Marshall, and he now ranks 39th 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.
• Senior forward Ben Lawson ranks fourth in WKU history with 184 career blocked shots. Lawson joins Wilborn, Jeremy Evans and Chris Marcus as Hilltoppers with at least 50 blocks in multiple seasons, and he and Evans are the only Tops with three seasons of at least 50 blocks.
LAST GAME AGAINST UTSA: JANUARY 28, 2017
Justin Johnson scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Western Kentucky to an 81-66 win over UTSA at E.A. Diddle Arena. Que Johnson nailed 5 of 6 from distance for 19 points, and Pancake Thomas added 11 for Western Kentucky. Jeff Beverly had 20 points for the Roadrunners.
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.