Here Come the Toppers
What: Florida Atlantic (13-6, 5-0) vs Western Kentucky (5-10, 0-3)
When: Saturday, Jan. 15th @ 8:00 PM EST
Where: Diddle Arena
TV: Fox College Sports (FCS) - DirecTV Channel 617, Comcast Digital 723
Live Video: WKU Pay Per View
Internet Broadcast: Here
Live Stats: Here
WKU Team Site: Here
G Ray Taylor 11.2 ppg
G Greg Gantt 14.7 ppg
G Pablo Bertone 2.9 ppg
F Kore White 9.1 ppg
F Brett Royster 7.4 ppg
G Kahlil McDonald 5.4 ppg
G Caden Dickerson 4.9 ppg
F Sergio Kerusch 14.5 ppg
F Steffphon Pettigrew 12.4 ppg
F Juan Pattillo 14.8 ppg
FAU is 1-8 all-time aginst Western Kentucky with the Owls dropping both contests in 2009-10. Last time on the hardwood, Florida Atlantic battled back to force OT, but eventually ran out of gas in a 78-69 setback at FAU Arena. Brett Royster had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in the loss, and Greg Gantt tied two Hilltoppers for a game high 19 points. WKU outrebounded the Owls 47-25 in the affair.
FAU at a Glance
It's been a busy time lately for the Owls, who will have played their sixth game in twelve days when its all said and done at the final buzzer tomorrow night. But fatigue hasn't been a factor thus far given earlier periods of extended play in Europe over the summer and the 13 day road swing back in December.
The team was able to pick up some extra rest this morning and slept in before attending study hall, watching film, and then practicing.
And it comes at a good time since they will likely face their biggest conference road challenge yet against the Hilltoppers on Saturday; a team that Jarvis looks towards becoming more like.
"It's the kind of program that schools like us want to try to emulate, try to build, and try to someday hopefully surpass", said Jarvis of WKU. "The fact that Western Kentucky is part of this trip makes it really special. We haven't won at Western Kentucky yet (under him) and this would be a great way to start the new year."
On Thursday, FAU picked up a big 71-61 win over Middle Tennessee to remain perfect in conference play. And they did it without their starting front court for most of the second half as forwards Kore White and Brett Royster saw their fourth, and fifth disqualifications on the season respectively.
One significant factor in the victory was vast improvement in free throws made. After shooting a paltry 38.5% Manhattan just prior, the Owls stepped it up to 72.7% against the Blue Raiders. Jarvis attributes success at the stripe to ones mindset towards an often overlooked component of the game.
"Free throw shooting is probably more of a mental thing than it is a physical thing, because all these kids can shoot. It's really putting a little bit of extra pride in taking free throws", said Jarvis during pregame discussion.
Another was steals. The Owls had eight, and that seems to be the magic number, as they are now 4-0 on the year when hitting that mark or greater.
Lastly, after Jarvis recently called out the need for better production at the guard spot in rebounding, Gregg Gantt responded by recording a career high seven defensive grabs against MTSU.
On an offensive note, Gantt averaged 21 points in the Owls' two meetings with the Hilltoppers last season.
WKU at a Glance
Originally projected to win the Sun Belt Conference East division back in the preseason polls, Western Kentucky has found anything but success this season, losing three straight conference games and nine of their past eleven contests.
Thursday night the Hilltoppers hit the road and traveled to conference foe Troy, but a but a second half collapse led to a 82-68 loss and marked the program’s worst start in Sun Belt Conference play since the 1988-89 season.
“This is a game we should have come in and won. We didn’t respond defensively, we gave up too many offensive rebounds. Our mindset is just not there. We don’t have enough to keep our defensive mindset for a full game. We’ve done it in spurts, but not for a whole game,” head coach Ken McDonald said.
The team’s performance on the court has been so disappointing, that McDonald has even gone as far as removing the player’s names off the back of their jerseys claiming, “You get the sense that we don’t play as a team.”
This action comes weeks after McDonald reimbursed fans for traveling to Vanderbilt and witnessing a 82-62 loss, in which the Hilltoppers committed 21 turnovers.
Senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew, the preseason conference play of the year, has been one of the lone bright spots for the program, averaging 12.4 points per game. Thursday against Troy however, Pettigrew was limited to just six points, leaving most of the offensive production to forward Sergio Kerusch.
Kerusch responded with a game high 24-points and 13 rebounds, marking the second straight game he recorded a double-double and the third 20-point outing in the last four contests.
The two forwards create a strong presence in the post, but the other player to watch for down low has been senior forward Juan Pattillo. A transfer from Oklahoma, Patillio ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference in rebounds, averaging 9.7 per game at, and is sixth in the league in scoring averaging 14.8 points per contest.
The Hilltoppers defense has been one of the worst in the conference allowing opponents to score 73.5 points per game, and the offense hasn’t been able to pick up the slack on the other end.
“The way we’re playing, we don’t even deserve to have WKU on our jersey. This isn’t like WKU basketball. We’ve got to find it within ourselves to just come together and stop this,” Pettigrew said.
Owl's Nest Prediction
Just how the Hilltoppers get the line advantage in this one is up for debate. FAU owns defensive performance at -7.6 ppg, and leads in virtually every other meaningful category as well aside from steals (-2.1) and rebounds (-2.1). Even with home court factored in it is tough to comprehend.
They will have their hands full defending the four spot, but Florida Atlantic is a better overall squad.
The Owls have beaten the spread eight times on the year, and should get their first win against WKU in the Jarvis era on Saturday night.
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