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The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and North Texas Mean Green will clash in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament at the Ford Center in Frisco, Tex. on Thursday. Western Kentucky earned a first-round bye after pocketing the No. 2 seed with an 11-7 conference record. The 10th-seeded Mean Green (8-10 C-USA) advanced with a victory over Florida International on Wednesday.
Measure of revenge
The Mean Green are playing in front of a friendly audience this week at the Conference USA Tournament, and it appears to be just what the doctor ordered. They went into this Texas-based event on a seven-game losing streak that most recently saw them lost to Florida International 73-58. North Texas committed 21 turnovers and shot 33.3 percent from the field, falling behind 40-24 at halftime and unable to recover. UNT got another shot at the Golden Panthers in the C-USA first round and took advantage on Wednesday, picking up a 71-57 victory over FIU.
There had been some concern about Ryan Woolridge, who was recently sidelined him from two games due to injury. He scored just two points in nine minutes in the regular-season finale against the Golden Panthers, not something that should happen with a player who is second on the team in scoring and rebounding, leading in assists, and also the glue-guy on defense. Woolridge was fifth in the nation in minutes played last year, setting a school record. So any absence on his part understandably creates a gaping hole. He came off the bench on Wednesday and looked much better, logging 32 minutes of action. Woolridge recorded nine points, six rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and two steals.
The Hilltoppers won 62-59 at North Texas on Feb. 9 with head coach Rick Stansbury sidelined with a back injury. Western Kentucky is 21-5 all-time vs. North Texas, including nine straight victories. WKU’s No. 2 seed in the Conference USA Tournament is its highest finish in five years in C-USA, as well as its highest finish overall since claiming the No. 2 seed in the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. The Hilltoppers are 20-5 in quarterfinal matchups since joining the Sun Belt in the 1982-83 season. WKU became the fifth program in NCAA history to reach 1,000 straight games with a made three-pointer at Rice on Feb. 7. The Hilltoppers’ streak of 1,007 games dates back to March 15, 1987. The Tops rank 13th in the country in total blocks and 11th in blocked shots per game, and 16th in percentage of opponents’ shots blocked, according to Ken Pomeroy. Its average of 5.0 blocks per game would tie its highest on record. Freshman center Charles Bassey is second in C-USA in blocks per game (2.4).
Three games, one game at a time.
— #SellOutDiddle (@WKUBasketball) March 13, 2019
Bassey could become the second freshman in the country since 1992 – along with Greg Oden – to average 15 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks per game while also shooting at least 60 percent from the field. He ranks second in the nation among freshmen in total rebounds (308), third in total blocks (74) and third in field-goal percentage (62.9 percent). Bassey also finds himself in the top 30 nationally in double-doubles (20th), field-goal percentage (11th), blocks per game (15th), total blocks (14th), rebounds per game (18th), defensive rebounds per game (29th), and total rebounds (21st). His 15 double-doubles this season are the most on record by a Hilltopper freshman. Bassey leads C-USA in double-doubles and ranks second in the nation among freshmen in double-doubles.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are:
- 3-0-1 ATS in their last four games against teams with winning percentages over .600
- 7-2 ATS in their last nine games following a loss
- 44-21 ATS in their last 65 neutral-site games
The North Texas Mean Green are:
- 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 overall
- 1-7 ATS in their last eight neutral-site games
- 2-12 ATS in their last 14 games against teams with winning records
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
North Texas had now lost seven games in a row both straight up and against the spread prior to its first-round victory. This team was off to a 16-1 start, with its only loss to Oklahoma. The Mean Green now sit at 21-11 (8-10 in conference play during the regular season) and 10-19-1 ATS. In the last 10 games, WKU senior guard Lamonte Bearden has 66 combined assists against just 17 turnovers. He leads C-USA in conference play with a 3.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Sophomore guard Josh Anderson is one of 12 players in the country with at least 120 total rebounds, 52 steals, and 21 blocks this season. He is one of two players from Conference USA to reach those marks. The Mean Green are 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 against Conference USA and 1-4 ATS in their last five following a win. Western Kentucky is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings between the two teams.
Prediction: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Full-Game Total Pick
The Mean Green lead C-USA in defensive efficiency and they are 18th in the nation in defensive rebounding rate. The under is 8-1 in the Mean Green’s last nine overall, 5-2-1 in their last eight following a win, and 15-5-1 in their last 21 on Thursdays. It is also 6-2 in the Hilltoppers’ last eight against opponents with winning percentages over .600, 7-2 in their last nine following a loss, and 17-8-2 in their last 27 at neutral sites. Look for this one to stay under the total.