#545 Western Kentucky University Hilltoppersvs.#546 University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers
Thursday, January 1 2017, at 8:00pm EST
Written by David Hess
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (9-8 SU, 5-9-1 ATS, 6-9-0 OU) vs UAB Blazers (9-7 SU, 3-8-0 ATS, 4-7-0 OU)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, January 12, 2017
Where: Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama
Lines: UAB -8.5
Conference U.S.A. college hoops and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will square off with the UAB Blazers at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. The Hilltoppers have started out at 3-1 within Conf U.S.A., while the Blazers check in at 2-1 in league play. WKU has gone just 3-6 on the road this year, while UAB is 5-2 at home so far. The Under is 5-1 the last six games in this series.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers started their year at just 4-7, but then they rattled off five wins in a row, before falling 79-67 at home to Old Dominion. The Hilltoppers are now 9-8 on the road and 3-1 in the conference. Their problem this year has been their offense and it really did struggle in their loss to the defensive-minded Monarchs. They shot just 35.7% from the field overall and 36% from long range, while missing 10 free throws in the game. They were also outrebounded by 14 in the game and they allowed the Monarchs to hit 50.9% of their shots overall, including 40.0% from long range. This just was not a good game overall for the Hilltoppers. Leading the attack for WKU was Que Johnson, who had 24 points, while Justin Johnson had 17 and Pancake Thomas had 14 to round out the double-digit scorers for WKU. On the year they have six players that average at least 6.1 ppg and have been led by Que Johnson, who is averaging, 15.1 ppg, while Justin Johnson is 2nd at 13.0 ppg and 3rd is Pancake Thomas at 12.5 ppg.
The Hilltoppers check in at 274th in the nation in scoring, putting up 69.4 ppg, while also ranking 213th in FG% (43.5%), 124th in 3-point shooting (36.5%) and 185th in free throw shooting (69.5%). At the defensive end of the floor they have been a bit below average as they come in ranked 189th in points allowed, giving up 72.2 ppg, while also ranking 242nd in defensive FG% (44.7%) and 263rd in 3-point defense (36.4%).
The UAB Blazers have been a very mediocre team overall, but they have started their Conference U.S.A Slate with a 2-1 mark. They lost their first game, which was at MTSU, but have bounced back with road wins over North Texas and Rice. in the Rice game they went to OT, before having it decided and won that game by a score 88-81. They didn’t have a good shooting game as they hit just 40% of their shots overall and just 30% from long range. What really helped them in this game was their defense, which allowed just 29.6% from long range and forced 21 turnovers, compared to the 12 they committed. Leading the attack for the Blazers was William Lee, who had 20 points, while Javien Williams had 14 and Deion Lavender had 13. In all it was a pretty balanced offensive attack as five players had at least nine points in the win. That has been the MO of this team all year as 10 players average from 5.1 ppg tom 12.1 ppg, with Chris Cokley leading the way at 12.1 ppg, while William Lee is next at 11.9 ppg and Dirk Williams has chipped in with 10.5 ppg.
UAB enters the game ranked 235th in the nation in scoring, putting up 71.8 ppg, while also ranking 146th in FG% (45.1%), 271st in 3-point shooting (32.5%) and 9th in free throw shooting (77.7%). At the defensive end of the floor they have been decent as they come in ranked 127th in points allowed, giving up 69.8 ppg, while also ranking 131st in defensive FG% (42.1%) and 219th in 3-point defense (35.4%).
Western Kentucky is:
Both teams come into this game playing well and both a bit below average on offense this year. The Blazers scored 88 points in their last game, but still they are averaging 67.7 nppg in their last five, while WKU has averaged just 65.6 ppg on the road this year. The Hilltoppers have been solid on defense on the road as they have allowed just 70.6 ppg away from home. The Blazers have averaged 75.7 ppg at home, but I feel that the Hilltoppers will slow them down in this one. On defense, the Blazers have been slightly lax of late, but at home for the year they have allowed just 65.7 ppg on the year. Take the under is this one.
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