Today’s UALR-Western Kentucky matchup has some interesting matchup possibilities. But the one that might be most interesting is what type of defense WKU chooses to go with.
UALR (11-9, 5-4) takes on WKU (11-8, 5-3) at 5 p.m. today at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.
Western Kentucky Coach Ray Harper likes to play zone. And he likes to strategically jump opponents with an occasional press that is generally well-timed and very effective. UALR has shown of late that it can execute pretty well vs. the zone and can handle all types of pressure.
But what UALR hasn’t handled well is its half court offense vs. suffocating man-to-man defense. Add a double teaming of Will Neighbour and Michael Javes when they catch in the lane and it’s been like kryptonite. So, will Harper change up what works for him to exploit what UALR has struggled with? The answer is probably both yes and no.
Expect to see the WKU zone. Expect to see them press in situations. And expect them to change it up with some tight man-to-man pressure.
Middle Tennessee chose not to press. They got back quickly on defense and limited UALR’s chances to run. Then they suffocated the Trojans with tight defense. And they locked UALR down by dominating rebounding. The result was an 82-50 victory for the Blue Raiders.
Western Kentucky has beaten just two teams with a winning record this season. They were DePaul (10-7), which they beat 70-61 during a tournament in Cancun, Mexico, and Florida International (9-8), which WKU beat 76-63 on Dec. 27.
For the most part, UALR shut down Western Kentucky's T.J. Price and George Fant in the first meeting of the season. Expect to see WKU try to get those two involved early today.
BTH KEYS TO VICTORY
Forty: Today’s magic number is 40, as in 40 percent. Western Kentucky is 11-3 if it shoots at least 40 percent. UALR is 10-4 if it shoots at least 40 percent. Western is 6-1 if it holds its opponent to less than 40 percent while UALR is 6-2 when it holds opponents to less than 40. If UALR can keep WKU from shooting 40 percent, UALR’s chances of winning go up.
Board beatdown: Western Kentucky is 11-3 if it outrebounds its opponent. UALR is 6-3 when it outrebounds its opponent. UALR doesn’t have to win rebounding today, but the Trojans have to be in the ballpark.
Paging Mr. White: UALR’s James White has turned into a pretty good zone buster. He’s able to hit the free throw line jump shot and pass out of that high post location. He’s got to have a productive day today to give UALR a chance.
Western Kentucky is an early eight-point favorite over UALR.
No surprise that everyone goes with Western Kentucky today:
OmniRankings (10-1): WKU 72, UALR 60
Real Time RPI (16-3): WKU 72, UALR 65
Jeff Sagarin (15-4): WKU 77, UALR 69
The Sports Network (14-4): WKU 70, UALR 63
CBS Sportsline (12-7): WKU 71, UALR 67
BTH Average (13-5): WKU 72.4, UALR 64.8