Men's Hoops Preview: Western Kentucky @ FAU
WKU (10-6, 17-12) @ FAU (14-13, 10-6)
When: Thursday, Feb. 25th - 7:00PM EST
Where: Boca Raton, FL - The Burrow
TV: Fox College Sports - DirectTV channel 617
Live Video: None
ESPN 760 Internet Broadcast: Here
Live Stats: None
WKU Team Site: Here
G Anthony Sally 3.5 ppg
G A.J. Slaughter 17.8 ppg
F Steffphon Pettigrew 14.9 ppg
F Sergio Kerusch 14.1 ppg
F Jeremy Evans 10.1 ppg
G Ray Taylor 14.4 ppg
G Alex Tucker 6.5 ppg
G Greg Gantt 15.6 ppg
G Sanchez Hughley 10.2 ppg
F Brett Royster 9.8 ppg
The Hilltoppers lead in the all-time series 7-1. Earlier this season, WKU downed the Owls 79-72 in a foul-fest for the ages.
Florida Atlantic was just 18-31 from the line.
WKU at a Glance
It's been a rocky and unfamiliar road for the Hilltoppers this season. Previous season's records show the variance.
2008-09: 25-8, 15-3 SBC
2007-08: 29-7, 16-2 SBC
So far during their 2009-10 campaign, WKU has lost a school-record four games by one point.
But last Saturday's match-up against Arkansas State was not one of them. On the road, the Hilltoppers battled back from an 11 point deficit in the second half to force OT en route to a 78-76 win over the Red Wolves.
A.J. Slaughter (17.8 ppg), who currently ranks second in league scoring behind Louisiana's Tyren Johnson (18.0 ppg), was held to just 8 points in during regulation, but exploded for 13 of WKU's 15 points in the 5:00 extra frame.
Additionally, he recently tied a school record with his third Sun Belt player of the week award during a single season averaging 26.0 points and 5.0 assists.
Off the court, Jeremy Evans has been turning some heads with his artistic ability.
WKU is not making a living from beyond the arc at 33.1%, but are stingy against opponents while allowing only 32.2%.
"There are some challenges with their quickness", said Hilltopper's Head Coach Ken McDonald about Florida Atlantic.
"Three guards that can score, a big guy that's athletic...FAU is in position to finish the year out strong".
FAU at a Glance
The Owls will need to win out and receive help to gain a bye in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament, as MTSU, UNT, and Troy are all sitting at 11-5 heading into Thursday.
Specifically, with an 86-80 loss to Troy last Saturday, FAU is dependent upon the Trojans to return favor in one of their remaining games against UALR or Arkansas State. This is definitely doable, as both contests are on the road. ASU would obviously be the best candidate.
Regardless, Coach Jarvis is not looking at the current standings, or potential match-ups, to make or break FAU.
"There are about seven teams that can finish anywhere from first to seventh. I am not looking at it at all", said Jarvis. "If anyone is thinking about who they are going to play or looking for a certain matchup, they are fools. When you get there, trust me, anybody can beat you. If you go there and look beyond somebody, you can be in big trouble."
With a banged up starter in Sanchez Hughley, Jarvis said that he may limit the junior's action if post season play readiness calls for it.
"I am not sure what I am going to do with him Thursday night. Not sure how much I will play him." Jarvis said. "As much as I want to win this week, it ain't about this week. In the end I will do what is best for next week. We'll see how it goes Thursday."
Jarvis also left the door open regarding "who" will get the call to man-up against A.J. Slaughter.
"Might be which guys we put on him more than who. Might be plural at times. He will see some different looks. He will see some different people. Maybe we will tray and play him the way some teams play Gregg. Maybe we play 15 feet off of him and try and screw him up. There are different ways to mess with guy's heads", said Jarvis.
The Owls are currently ranked 21st nationally in three point percentage (38.9%).
Owl's Nest Prediction
Defending the four-man is a significant part of disabling WKU's offense.
Sanchez Hughley fouled out in just seven minutes of action the last time the two teams met. His replacement, Jordan McCoy, had career highs of 13 points and eight rebounds in relief. He may see extended time again as it is unclear just how much time Jarvis will give Hughley on Thursday.
To make matters more unknown, the Hilltoppers have gotten a lot better with the return of forward Sergio Kerusch who was sidelined with a broken foot until returning for the ULM game on February 4th.
Since then WKU is 5-1 with their only loss coming to out of conference opponent University of Houston.
The forward is streaky but is an emotional presence that FAU did not encounter during the previous meeting, and will need to be accounted for. He also makes Slaughter a lot better while forcing the Owls to account for two offensive threats simultaneously.
Despite Vegas' vantage point, our number crunch analysis comes down to what we have seen many-a-time this year at FAU Arena - a nail biter.