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Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Game Preview/Open Thread

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The Huskies play in the first game of the Global Sports Classic in Las Vegas.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Friday, 11/25/16

Tip-Off Time: 5:00pm PST

TV: None (streaming online at: https://campusinsiders.com/live/washington-vs-western-kentucky/)

Radio: Komo 1000

Western Kentucky Statistics:

Record: 3-1

Points For per Game: 74.8 ppg

Points Against per Game: 69.8 ppg

Strength of Schedule: 338th

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 102.5 (173rd)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 103.9 (190th)

Line: Washington -7

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Key Players:

C- Ben Lawson, Sr. 7-1, 235: 9.5ppg, 5.5rpg, 56% FG, 62.5% FT

This will be the first time this season that UW plays against a legitimate center. Lawson is shooting almost 60% from the field. His block percentage is in between Thybulle and Dime’s but is one of the national leaders with only 1.2 fouls committed per 40 minutes. UW can’t expect to get Lawson in easy foul trouble and must be ready to have a shot blocking presence in the lane the entire game.

F- Justin Johnson, Jr. 6-7, 240: 13.8ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.5apg, 47.5% FG, 77.8% FT, 50% 3pt

The first of the Johnson’s has put up fantastic stats so far this year. He’s making half of his attempts from beyond the arc on 2.5 attempts per game and is nearly averaging a double double with a block per game. His defensive rebounding rate is higher than anyone on the Huskies so it may be difficult for the Dawgs to get put backs while Justin is out on the court.

F- Que Johnson, Jr. 6-6, 205: 15.5ppg, 5.3rpg, 0.8apg, 50% FG, 72.7% FT, 45.5% 3pt

Dawg fans will recognize Que Johnson from his 3 seasons as a Coug. He’s having his best season so far in his senior year, making 45% of 3 point shots while attempting nearly 6 per game. The Dawgs can’t lose track of Que on the perimeter as he’ll make them pay from deep.

G- Cleveland Thomas, Jr. 6-4, 195: 12.5ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.0apg, 37.8% FG, 94.1% FT, 40% 3pt

Another player, another shooter. Cleveland "Pancake" Thomas is actually shooting better beyond the arc than he is from inside of it. He leads the tea in minutes and is a very steady presence for the Hilltoppers.

G- Junior Lomomba, Sr. 6-5, 205: 7.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 4.3apg, 26.1% FG, 93.8% FT, 16.7% 3pt

Another fantastic name, Lomomba will be the primary ballhandler for Western Kentucky. His assist rate is very good at better than 27% but his turnover rate is even higher at 29%. His shooting percentages also are terrible so the Dawgs will want to pressure him hard when he has the ball but can’t unnecessarily foul if he goes up for the shot.

The Outlook

This team is in many ways the opposite of Long Beach State. Long Beach had played the toughest schedule in the country, WKU has played the 339th ranked schedule. Long Beach was generally undersized, WKU has legitimate size at all 5 positions. Long Beach played a large rotation, WKU plays mostly 7 guys.

It’s hard to tell how good the Hilltoppers because of their schedule. Similar to the Huskies, WKU lost the hardest game in their schedule. The difference comes from the rest of their games where Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton are better than any team WKU has beaten so far. All of WKU’s statistics right now are gaudy but again, how much of that is the schedule?

Two components have nothing to do with the schedule though. This is the 12th most experienced team in the country (compared to UW’s 323rd). Of their top 6 in minutes, 5 are seniors and the 6th is a junior. They aren’t going to get flustered. Secondly, as mentioned previously WKU looks like a power-5 team getting off the bus. They have a 7-footer guarding the paint and a stable of 6-4 to 6-7 wings roaming the perimeter. UW can’t rely on Markelle Fultz having a 4-inch advantage over the guy guarding him.

This game will likely come down to the officiating. The Hilltoppers lead the country in opponents’ free throw attempts per field goal attempt. That number essentially demonstrates that they hardly ever foul on a shot attempt. Since they play such a short rotation, if UW could change that trend and get them in foul trouble their depth could allow them to take over the game. I think WKU is a pretty good team but on a neutral site this is a game UW has to be able to win.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 86, Western Kentucky- 77