BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- The Hilltoppers return home to host long-time rival Murray State on Tuesday, December 22 in both teams' final game before the holiday break. The Racers have won nine of their last 10 while WKU is looking to bounce back from Saturday's setback at Louisville. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM CT. Below are game notes for the contest (with a link to the full, downloadable version in PDF format).
WKU (5-4) vs. Murray State (9-2)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 • 8:00 PM CT
E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) • Bowling Green, Ky.
►COVERAGE: The game will be carried live on WKYU as well as on Fox College Sports and DirecTV channel 617. In addition, live stats, live audio, and live video feeds are available at WKUsports.com.
►SIZING UP THE RACERS: Murray State is a perennial power in the Ohio Valley Conference, owning 20 OVC regular season titles and 13 OVC Tournament crowns. MSU returns four of five starters and eight letterwinners off last year's 19-12 squad that finished runner-up in the OVC with a 13-5 mark. Ivan Aska leads four Racers in double figures at 12.5 ppg.
►ANOTHER CHAPTER IN AN OLD RIVALRY: WKU and Murray State will meet on the hardwood for the 147th time on Tuesday, marking the most times the Toppers have met the same opponent aside from 154 meetings with Eastern Kentucky.
►FAMILY TIES: The father of WKU senior guard AJ Slaughter was a two-year letterwinner for Murray State. Tony Slaughter played two seasons for the Racers in 1980-81.
►RPI: WKU enters the Murray State game with an RPI of 63; the Racers are 79th.
►SERGIO SIDELINED: Junior forward Sergio Kerusch broke his foot in practice on Friday, December 18 and will miss approximately six weeks.
►EVANS' ART ON DISPLAY: Senior forward Jeremy Evans, a fine arts major, will have approximately 10-15 pieces of his art work on display in the Hall of Champions at Diddle Arena during the Toppers' home game against Murray State.
►BOUNCING BACK: WKU has lost back-to-back games just twice in the Ken McDonald era.
►BETTER LAND THE FIRST PUNCH: Only twice in the last nine seasons has WKU lost to the same non-conference opponents in consecutive seasons (SIU and Tennessee, both in 2006-07 and 2007-08.)
►SLAUGHTER NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: For the second time in five weeks, WKU senior guard AJ Slaughter has been named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week. The Shelbyville, Ky. native led the Hilltoppers to wins over Evansville and #24 Vanderbilt, averaging 16.0 ppg and 3.0 apg. The December 15th selection was the third career honor for Slaughter, and the program's 48th in the Tops' 27-year affiliation with the SBC.
►TOP 100 PROGRAMS COLLIDE: Tuesday night will pit two of the top 100 programs in college basketball history against one another at Diddle Arena. WKU is rated 44th all-time according to the ESPN/Sagarin Rankings while Murray State is 99th.
►TRENDS FROM LOUISVILLE: WKU connected on a season-best 10 three-pointers. The Toppers trailed at the half for the seventh time in nine games this season (4-3 in those contests). WKU committed a season-high 25 turnovers, the most since recording 25 miscues in an overtime loss at Arizona 86-81 on December 21, 2005.
►CRUCIAL HOME STRETCH: WKU is in the midst of playing five of seven games at home, where the Toppers are 31-2 since February 15, 2007.
►GETTING DEFENSIVE AT DIDDLE: In the Ken McDonald era, WKU is holding opponents at Diddle Arena to just 61.6 ppg (17 games).
►GAME TIME CHANGE: The January 7 match-up between WKU and South Alabama in Mobile has been moved up an hour to 5:05 PM CT. The change was made by the Jaguars due to the BCS National Championship contest.
►TOP DRAW: Saturday's game at Louisville drew 19,531, the fifth time this season WKU has played before a crowd of more than 8,000 fans.
►TAKING ON THE OVC: WKU is 414-159 (.723) all-time against the 10 current members of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Hilltoppers have won 12 of this last 13 games against OVC foes dating back to 2003.
►LAST MEETING WITH MURRAY: Murray State bolted to 19-point lead midway through the first-half and held the Toppers at arms length the remainder of the way for an 89-61 win on November 22, 2008 before 7,038 fans at the RSEC.
►LAST MURRAY VISIT TO DIDDLE: The last time MSU visited Diddle Arena was November 17, 2007. The Toppers placed four players in double figures led by Courtney Lee's 18 in an 87-63 win. Current players AJ Slaughter and Steffphon Pettigrew contributed 11 and 10 points respectively. The 24-point margin of victory equaled the largest by WKU in the series since a 101-68 win in Bowling Green on February 13, 1954.
►OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: With the loss of Sergio Kerusch to injury, a trio of true freshmen in Jamal Crook, Caden Dickerson, and Jordan Swing all stepped up with career nights against Louisville on December 19.
►SLAUGHTER SHOOTS PAST TWO MORE ON CAREER SCORING LIST: With his 16 points against Louisville, AJ Slaughter passed Mike Prince (1977-80) and Jack Turner (1949-51, 1954) and into a tie with Jim Rose (1969-71) for 29th on the WKU all-time scoring list with 1,133 points.
►SOMMET CENTER SUCCESS: Two of AJ Slaughter's three best games have come at the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tenn. against ranked teams. Last season, the senior guard dropped 25 on third-ranked Louisville, only to pour in 27 this year versus #24 Vanderbilt.
►THREE-POINT STREAK: WKU has made a three-pointer in 680-straight games, ranking as the sixth longest active streak. UNLV (747), Vanderbilt (739), and Princeton (632) are the only three teams to have made a three in every game since the shot was instituted in 1986-87. WKU's last miss came on March 13, 1987 against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament.
►RECORD VS. THE RANKED: With the Toppers' 76-69 win over #24 Vanderbilt, WKU is now 34-85 all-time versus ranked opponents including a 2-1 record under head coach Ken McDonald. The Toppers have won three of their last five games against ranked teams on neutral floors, and are 14-23 all-time in those contests.
►HISTORIC WIN: The December 11 win over #24 Vanderbilt was the first match-up between the two programs since 2001, and just the fifth in the last 43 years. WKU snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Commodores with their first win over Vandy since 1946.
►TALENT ON DISPLAY: More than 20 scouts representing 18 different NBA franchises were on hand Dec. 11 to evaluate the talent at the 2009 Sun Belt Classic.
►DOUBLING DOWN: On December 8 against Evansville, Steffphon Pettigrew (18 pts, 13 rebs) and Jeremy Evans (10 pts, 11 rebs) became the first WKU players to record double doubles in the same game since Anthony Winchester (25 pts, 11 rebs) and Elgrace Wilborn (10 pts, 10 rebs) accomplished the feat on February 24, 2005, a span of 145 games.
►700 CLUB: Ken McDonald is one only four WKU coaches to have a .700 winning percentage through his first 40 games on the bench. Out of 11 all-time coaches (beginning with E.A. Diddle), McDonald joins John Oldham, Murray Arnold, and Matt Kilcullen as those to achieve the feat. McDonald went 28-12, just three games behind Arnold and Kilcullen, and two back of Oldham for the best start ever.
►WELCOME ABOARD: The Big Red Radio Network welcomes an out-of-state affiliate to its line-up with the addition of Nashville's WAMB-FM 99.3.
►SLAUGHTER FOR THREE...: Senior guard AJ Slaughter has 151 career three-pointers, moving him past Roland Shelton (1987-90) and Filip Videnov (2000-03) and into a tie with Nashon McPherson (1998-2001) for eighth all-time at WKU. The Shelbyville, Ky. native is also ninth in career steals with 127.
►SEEING DOUBLE: Slaughter had his career-best streak of 24-straight games scoring in double figures halted on Tuesday, December 8 in a 63-57 win over Evansville.
►PETTIGREW'S PERFORMANCE: Junior Steffphon Pettigrew has notched double figures in 23 of his last 28 regular season games. The 2007 Kentucky Mr. Basketball has at least 10 points in 25 of his last 33 contests counting last year's postseason.
►SLAUGHTER PASSES FORMER BACKCOURT MATE: With his 12 points at South Carolina on December 2, AJ Slaughter passed his starting backcourt mate from 2008-09, Orlando Mendez-Valdez for 35th on the WKU scoring list.
►SLAUGHTER REACHES 1,000: Senior guard AJ Slaughter needed just 14 points entering the season to reach 1,000 for his career. With a career-best 30 on November 16 against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he became the 43rd member of the illustrious WKU 1,000-point club.
►500TH WIN AT DIDDLE: The December 6 win over Tulane 62-48 gave WKU men's basketball its 500th victory in the 47-year history of E.A. Diddle Arena.
►LINE-UP SHAKE-UP: Freshmen Caden Dickerson and Jameson Tipping made their first collegiate starts on December 6 against Tulane, the first line-up change this season by the Hilltoppers.
►TOPPERS VS. FORMER COACHES: The Hilltoppers have had success when facing former head coaches, compiling a 3-3 mark. In their only game against Gene Keady after he left the Hill to take the reigns at Purdue, WKU fell 72-65 to the Boilermakers in the 1982 NIT in West Lafayette, Ind. WKU is 3-1 against Dennis Felton in his time at Georgia, and 0-1 versus Darrin Horn at South Carolina.
►RARE HOME LOSS: The November 24 home loss to Indiana State was just the second in the last 31 games, snapping the Sun Belt's longest active homecourt winning streak at 15 games. That streak was tied for the 10th longest in WKU history.
►WKU RANKED 44th ALL-TIME: With a history and tradition that ranks third all-time in conference championships (41), sixth in 20-win seasons (39), eighth in all-time winning percentage (.673), and 14th in wins (1,611), Western Kentucky University is rated 44th out of 330 Division I men's basketball programs in the ESPN/Sagarin All-Time Rankings released in October. In the 1,200-page book, the authors stated, "Western Kentucky has a tradition and fan base that almost any other team in the country would envy."
►READY FOR PRIMETIME: Beginning with the South Carolina game on December 2, WKU has the remaining 27 regular season games on its schedule carried on television. WKU was 23-8 in televised games in 2008-09.
►HOME OPENERS: WKU is 74-17 all-time in home season openers (.813).
►DIDDLE DOMINANCE: Since its doors opened on December 7, 1963, the Hilltoppers are 501-132 all-time at Diddle Arena for a .791 winning percentage. Diddle has witnessed eight undefeated home seasons (1965-66, 1968-69, 1969-70, 1970-71, 1994-95, 2001-02, 2002-03, and 2008-09) and only two losing seasons (1963-64 and 1997-98).
►30-SOMETHING: AJ Slaughter's career-high 30 against Wisconsin-Milwaukee marks the first time a Topper has reached that mark since the 2007-08 season.
►SLAUGHTER PLAYER OF THE WEEK: AJ Slaughter's 30-point performance against Wisconsin-Milwaukee earned him the Sun Belt Conference's first Player of the Week for the 2009-10 season. It was his second career selection, and the 47th in the Tops' 27-year affiliation with the SBC.
►SI.COM LOVES SLAUGHTER: Sports Illustrated held an "online draft" on November 19 of four of its top college basketball analysts. Each person selected five players and one coach to make up their "Dream Team." Seth Davis selected AJ Slaughter with his fifth pick, stating, "As you all pointed out I need a long-range shooter and scorer...so I'll go with AJ Slaughter from Western Kentucky. Best mid-major player next to Jerome Jordan." Grant Wahl responded with, "Inspired pick. I really like WKU this season."
►ROAD WARRIORS: This year marked the 14th time in the last 17 seasons WKU has opened up its season away from home. With the win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee, they are now 4-10 in those contests.
►RISING TO THE TOP: Senior forward Jeremy Evans' career field goal percentage of .626 is now tops in school history.
►MAGIC STREAK SNAPPED: Prior to the Indiana State loss, WKU had been a perfect 23-0 when holding opponents to less than 70 points, dating back to last season.
►BEEN THERE BEFORE: This year marked the fourth appearance in the Preseason NIT for WKU, the last coming in 1997 when the Toppers fell at #2 Kansas 75-62. In 1993, Ralph Willard's squad lost 101-87 to top-ranked North Carolina before going on to win the Sun Belt Tournament and face Texas in the NCAA Tournament. In the program's first appearance in the Preseason NIT, the Hilltoppers won at Notre Dame 80-63, ousted TCU 96-90, and then beat Memphis 68-67 in Madison Square Garden, setting up a showdown with UNLV for the championship, only to suffer a heartbreaking 96-95 2OT loss. Overall, WKU is 5-5 all-time in the event.
►THE FABULOUS '50's: With a record of 228-97, WKU has a .702 winning percentage this decade, the best since the 1950's teams won at a .714 clip.
►LIDLIFTERS: WKU is now 65-26 all-time in season openers (.714). The Toppers have now won five of the last six openers.
►NATIONAL RANKING NOTHING NEW: Being in the national rankings is nothing new for the tradition-rich Hilltopper program. Since the AP poll debuted in 1948, WKU has spend 112 weeks in the Top 25, including 60 weeks inside the Top 10. The Toppers were last ranked inside the Top 25 when they finished 2007-08 at 22nd.
►EARLY SIGNINGS: At the start of the fall early signing period, WKU inked a pair of highly-regarded forwards in Stephon Drane (Raleigh, N.C.) and Kene Anyigbo (Bellaire, Texas). The 6-8 Drane was rated as the 28th-best power forward by ESPN while the 6-5 Anyigbo was tabbed 82nd among power forwards.
►SUN BELT FAVORITES: The Sun Belt Conference coaches selected WKU as the overwhelming favorite to win the East Division in 2009-10. If the prediction holds, it will be the program's third-straight and seventh crown in the last 10 seasons. The Hilltoppers garnered 12 of a possible 13 first-place votes.
►SLAUGHTER PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior guard AJ Slaughter has been selected as the Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year by the league's head coaches. The Shelbyville, Ky. native led the team in scoring at 16.0 ppg last season and is trying to become the third-straight Topper to become Player of the Year (Courtney Lee and Orlando Mendez-Valdez).
►FOUR NAMED PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE: AJ Slaughter, Sergio Kerusch, Steffphon Pettigrew, and Jeremy Evans have been selected to the Sun Belt Preseason All-Conference team. Slaughter was a First-Team selection, and Player of the Year, while Kerusch and Pettigrew were placed on the Second-Team and Evans the Third-Team.
►BLUE RIBBON TABS TOPS: Blue Ribbon magazine has forecasted WKU to win the Sun Belt Conference East Division while selecting senior guard AJ Slaughter as the Player of the Year.
►TAKING ON THE BIG EAST: WKU is 78-78 (.500) all-time against the 16 current members of the Big East Conference.
►RECORD VS. THE SEC: WKU is now 24-32 all-time against the 12 current members of the Southeastern Conference. The Toppers were 1-1 against the league last year, winning against Georgia while failing at Mississippi State. WKU is 1-2 this season with a home game versus Mississippi State still remaining.
►TAKING ON THE VALLEY: WKU is 63-37 (.630) all-time against the 10 current members of the Missouri Valley Conference.
►TAKING ON CONFERENCE USA: WKU is now 47-36 all-time against the 12 current members of Conference USA. The Hilltoppers were 1-1 against the league last year, beating Tulane and falling at Houston.
►WELCOME BACK: Tulane became just the fifth C-USA team to play at Diddle Arena since the league was founded in 1995. The Tops are an impressive 4-1 in those games, now with wins over Tulane (12/06/09), UAB (11/28/06), Marshall (12/18/04), and Southern Miss (12/18/02); the lone loss was to Tulsa (12/04/95).
►RECORD VS. THE BIG WEST: WKU is 6-2 all-time against the nine current members of the Big West Conference.
►RECORD VS. THE HORIZON: WKU is now 24-13 all-time against the 10 current members of the Horizon League. The Toppers snapped a three-game skid against the Horizon which dated back to a win against Butler on December 3, 1997.
►TITLETOWN: Last season, WKU won its sixth Sun Belt East Division Title in nine seasons. It was the Hilltoppers' 41st conference championship (includes regular season and postseason), ranking third all-time in Division I, trailing on Kentucky and Kansas.
►DECADE OF DOMINANCE: WKU captured the program's fifth Sun Belt Conference Tournament Title this decade, taking home the hardware in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, and 2009.
►SEEING 20-20: With a 25-9 mark last season, WKU posted the program's fifth-straight 20-win campaign, a first in Sun Belt Conference history. With 20 wins this season, the streak would become the second-longest in Hilltopper history, trailing only the string of 10-straight by E.A. Diddle's teams from 1933 to 1943.
►STANDARD BEARER: Twenty-five times Sun Belt teams have finished the season ranked in the final national polls (AP, UPI, USA Today). WKU owns 18 of those 25 spots.
►CENTURY MARK: WKU is virtually unbeaten all-time when scoring 100 points. The Hilltoppers are 100-1 all-time when scoring at least 100 points.
►BEST OF THE BEST: WKU owns 34 wins against ranked teams including 13 against Top 10 opponents. Six of those have come over foes ranked fourth or higher and seven against ranked teams in the NCAA Tournament.
►NCAA TOURNAMENT WINS: Over the past two seasons, only 18 teams have won a game in the NCAA Tournament in both the 2008 and 2009 seasons. WKU joins Siena (MAAC), Memphis (C-USA), and Xavier (A-10) as the only four teams NOT from a BCS conference to do so. WKU won two games in 2008 to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16, while last season the Hilltoppers won their First Round game with Illinois before falling in the final second to 10th-ranked Gonzaga.
►ROOKIE SUCCESS: Of the 65 coaches to lead their team to the 2009 NCAA Tournament, only one--Ken McDonald--was in his first season as a head coach.
►CRADLE OF COACHES: Many schools may claim to be the cradle of coaches when it comes to men's basketball, but WKU has the evidence to back it up. WKU has gone to the NCAA Tournament under the greatest number of head coaches than anyone else in NCAA history. Eleven different head men have directed the Hilltoppers to the Big Dance.
►AMONG THE NATION'S ELITE: WKU trails only 27 of 73 men's basketball programs from BCS conferences in NCAA Tournament appearances over the last 10 years. The Hilltoppers have been to five NCAA Tournaments since 1999-2000.