HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- The 2010 Sun Belt Tournament's fourth seed, the WKU Hilltoppers, continue their pursuit of the program's third-straight tournament title, eighth overall, on Sunday, March 7 when the Tops square off against fifth-seeded Arkansas State at 6:30 PM in Hot Springs, Ark. WKU swept the season series with the Red Wolves winning 79-68 in Bowling Green on February 11, and 78-76 in an overtime thriller in Jonesboro, Ark. on February 20. The Tops are 0-2 against ASU in the SBC Tournament, however. Below are game notes for the contest (with a link to the full, downloadable version in PDF format).
#4 WKU (20-12, 12-6 SBC) vs. #5 Arkansas State (17-13, 11-7 SBC)
Sunday, March 7, 2010 • 6:30 PM CT
Summit Arena (5,500) • Hot Springs, Ark.
►COVERAGE: There will be no television of the Hilltoppers game with Arkansas State, but live audio of the Big Red Radio Network is available via WKUsports.com. Also, a live video feed as well as Live stats will be provided by SunBeltSports.org.
►SIZING UP THE RED WOLVES: Head coach John Brady, in his second season at Arkansas State and 19th as a head coach, finished the regular season at 16-13 and were second in the SBC West Division at 11-7. Brandon Reed (15.1 ppg), Martavius Adams (11.4 ppg),and Daniel Bryant (10.6 ppg) are all averaging in double figures for ASU.
►SEEING 20-20: Saturday's win over New Orleans in the Sun Belt Tournament extended WKU's Sun Belt Conference record of consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins to six. It is the longest such stretch for the Hilltoppers in over 65 years and is the 40th for WKU, sixth-most in NCAA history, trailing only Kentucky (54), North Carolina (53), UCLA (45), Duke (45), and Louisville (43).
►MAIN ATTRACTION: WKU led the Sun Belt in home attendance for the sixth-consecutive year with an average of 4,461 fans per game walking through the turnstiles.
►UN-COMMONWEALTH: According to research from the Lexington-Herald Leader, with Louisville (20-10) and WKU (20-12) each winning on Saturday, they joined Kentucky (27-2), Murray State (27-4), Morehead State (21-9), and Eastern Kentucky (20-11) as 20-game winners. It marks the first time in the Commonwealth's history that all six Division I men's teams reached the 20-win milestone in the same season.
►ALL-CONFERENCE ANNOUNCED: Senior guard AJ Slaughter and junior forward Steffphon Pettigrew were named to the 2010 Sun Belt All-Conference teams. Slaughter was a First-Team selection while Pettigrew was placed on the Second-Team. WKU has now had 36 All-Conference selections, at least one honoree in 25 of its 28 years of Sun Belt affiliation, and have had a First-Team selection for 10-straight years.
►AS A FOUR-SEED: WKU would like to change up its history as a four-seed in the Sun Belt Tournament. Now is six previous as the fourth-seeded team, WKU is 2-5 all-time, with the previous lone win coming in the quarterfinals of the 1996 edition.
►TITLETOWN: WKU's seven SBC Tournament titles is already the most by any one school in history, but a third-straight championship this year would equal the most consecutive tournament titles in league history by one team, tying the Toppers own mark set in 2001-03 as well as UAB in 1982-84.
►CONFERENCE KINGPINS: WKU's 41 all-time conference championships rank third in NCAA history, trailing only Kansas (53) and Kentucky (44) on the all-time list.
►SECOND-SEASON SUCCESS: WKU ranks as the all-time leader in Sun Belt Tournament victories with 38. WKU has won five of the last eight tournament championships.
►ROUND-BY-ROUND: WKU is 38-20 all-time in the Sun Belt Tournament for a .655 winning percentage. The Toppers are 6-6 all-time in the first round, 14-3 in the quarterfinals, 11-7 in the semifinals, and 7-4 in the championship game.
►BRACKET BREAKDOWN: WKU is now an impressive 10-1 this season against teams in their half of the SBC Tournament bracket following the opening round win over New Orleans. By contrast, the Toppers are just 3-5 against the other half.
►RETURN OF SERGIO: In the 10 games since junior forward Sergio Kerusch has been back in the line-up, after missing 14 contests with a foot injury, the Hilltoppers are 8-2, averaging 79.7 ppg, have a scoring margin of +14.0 ppg, and are out rebounding opponents by 8.0 rpg.
►KERUSCH TABBED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Junior Sergio Kerusch averaged 21.5 ppg and 10.5 rpg last week in leading WKU to a pair of road conference wins at Florida Atlantic and FIU. It was his first selection of the season, and third of his career. It is the fifth honoree for the Hilltoppers this season, setting a new school record and tying the all-time conference mark held by Denver (2004-05) and Charlotte (1977-78). WKU now has 51 weekly winners in 28 years of Sun Belt affiliation.
►ERASING HIS WAY INTO THE RECORD BOOKS: With three blocked shots in the season finale at FIU, an 88-61 Hilltopper victory, senior Jeremy Evans passed former WKU All-American Chris Marcus (2000-03) as the school's career leader in blocks with 216.
►PENCIL HIM IN: Jeremy Evans has now started 128 games in his WKU career, passing NBA star and former WKU All-American Courtney Lee (2004-08) for the most in Hilltopper history.
►PETTIGREW REACHES 1,000: With two free throws at 10:32 of the second half on Feb. 20, Steffphon Pettigrew became the 45th member of WKU's 1,000-point club. Currently with 1,050 points, he ranks 39th on the all-time scoring list.
►OVERTME RARITY: The February 25 overtime win at Florida Atlantic was the first time since 1998 that WKU had played consecutive OT games. But even more rare was the fact that the Toppers won those back-to-back road overtime contests, a first in the 91-season history of WKU.
►OVERTIME EXTRAS: After not playing an overtime contest in the first 46 games of the Ken McDonald era, WKU has seen four since January 7. The win over South Alabama on Jan. 7 was the first since the Tops beat #14 Drake 101-99 in the NCAA Tournament on March 21, 2008.
►SLAUGHTER EARNS THIRD PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARD: Senior AJ Slaughter averaged 26.0 ppg and 5.0 apg in leading WKU to a pair of key Sun Belt Conference victories. With his third selection this season on Feb. 22, he ties Courtney Lee (2007-08) and Tellis Frank (1986-87) for the single season school record.
►LEADING THE WAY: As WKU won its final six games of the regular season, AJ Slaughter contributed 20.8 ppg, 6.3 apg, and had a three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.
►EVANS REACHES 1,000: Scoring on his first field goal attempt of the game, coming at the 18:13 mark of the first half on February 18, senior Jeremy Evans became the 44th member of the prestigious 1,000-point club at WKU. Now with 1,053 career points, the Crossett, Ark. native ranks 38th all-time.
►RISING TO THE TOP: With 13 points versus New Orleans on Saturday, AJ Slaughter remains second in the Sun Belt in scoring at 17.7 ppg, only 0.3 ppg behind La.-Lafayette's Tyren Johnson. The only Hilltopper to ever lead the league in scoring was Jack Jennings in 1991-92 at 19.1 ppg.
►ELITE COMPANY: Jeremy Evans is just the second player in the 91-season history of WKU Basketball to tally 1,000 career points, 750 rebounds, and 200 blocks. All-American Chris Marcus (2000-03) is the only other Topper to accomplish that feat.
►THREE'S A CROWD: When Steffphon Pettigrew joined AJ Slaughter and Jeremy Evans in WKU's 1,000-point club on Feb. 20, it marked the first time in 91 seasons that three Hilltoppers have earned membership into the group in the same season.
►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. On February 25, it was Sergio Kerusch (11 pts, 12 rebs) and Evans (19 pts, 17 rebs) pulling off the same feat again.
►NOTHING BUT WINNERS: In four years together, seniors AJ Slaughter and Jeremy Evans have combined for a tremendous 96-39 record, a .711 winning percentage.
►SNAKEBITTEN: With Feburary 4th's 67-66 loss at ULM, the Hilltoppers have now dropped four games by one point this year, surpassing the 1978-79 team's school record of three one-point defeats in a year. Out of 347 Division I teams, WKU is tied with Cal State Northridge and Mississippi Vallye State for the most one-point losses this season with four.
►COUNTING CADEN: Freshman guard Caden Dickerson has scored 186 points. The Argyle, Texas product needs 14 more to become the 11th freshman in WKU history to score 200 points in his first year.
►DEFENDING HOME COURT: Since February 2007, the Hilltoppers have won 40 of their last 45 games at Diddle Arena. After a 13-0 mark last season, WKU suffered a one-point loss to Indiana State on Nov. 24, snapping the longest homecourt winning streak in the Sun Belt at 15 games.
►TAKING ON THE SUN BELT: WKU is 285-120 (.704) all-time against the 12 current members of the Sun Belt Conference (includes postseason and match-ups when WKU was in the OVC). Since joining the Sun Belt in 1982, the Toppers are 281-159 all-time (.639) in league play.
►DIALING LONG DISTANCE: Over the last five games, WKU is shooting 40.8 percent from three-point range and averaging 9.8 made threes per game (49-of-120).
►SUN BELT FOES BEWARE: WKU is 164-48 (.774) all-time in Sun Belt games at Diddle Arena. Even more impressive, the Toppers are 72-7 (.911) since 2000.
►C LEE RETURNS: For the first time since his graduation from WKU in May 2008, Courtney Lee returned to the Hill to catch the Toppers in action on February 11, witnessing an impressive 79-68 WKU win over Arkansas State. Lee, a first round NBA Draft in 2008 of the Orlando Magic, finished his distinguished four-year career at WKU tied for the all-time scoring lead with 2,238 points.
►TAKING ON THE BEST WITH SUCCESS: Finishing the 2009-10 non-conference portion of their schedule at 7-6, WKU has had 11-straight winning seasons outside of Sun Belt play.
►UNCHARTED TERRITORY: WKU snapped its five-game losing streak on January 30, avoiding a six-game skid for the first time since 2003-04. Dropping four-straight conference contests was also a first since 1998-99.
►IRON MAN: AJ Slaughter tied a career-high on February 20 against Arkansas State, logging 42 minutes of action. He has seven games thus far in which the Sun Belt's leader in minutes per game (36.3) has played at least 40 minutes in a game.
►FOLLOW THE LEADER: Either AJ Slaughter or Steffphon Pettigrew has been WKU's leading scorer in 27 of 32 games this season. Jeremy Evans led the team with 19 points at ULM on February 4, snapping a string of 19-straight games one of the duo has led the squad.
►BEST SUN BELT START EVER: With the win over FIU on January 16, second-year head coach Ken McDonald moved past Matt Kilcullen and now claims the best start to Sun Belt Conference play ever by a WKU head coach at 19-4. McDonald also wrapped up his first 50 games on the sidelines for WKU with a .720 winning percentage (36-14).
►CHAMPIONS ON AND OFF THE COURT: As of the beginning of the spring semester, freshman Caden Dickerson is on pace to earn a spot on the Commissioner's List (3.50 GPA or higher) while fellow freshmen Jordan Swing and William Green would qualify for the Sun Belt Honor Roll (3.00 GPA or higher).
►PETTIGREW EARNS PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS: Junior forward Steffphon Pettigrew was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week on January 18, his first career selection. The Elizabethtown, Ky., native helped WKU to a pair of conference wins over Florida Atlantic and FIU by averaging 18.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg.
►BATTLE-TESTED: WKU has played five non-conference games against opponents from the six BCS conferences this season. Among the teams currently ranked in the Top 15 of the AP poll (as of December 31), only Texas, with six, has played more non-conference contests against BCS opponents than WKU.
►DOUBLING UP ON THE SEC: Now with wins over #24 Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, WKU has wins over two different SEC opponents in the same season for the first time in school history.
►HISTORIC WINS: In their last two games against SEC opponents, the Toppers have erased a combined 113-year drought to Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. On December 11, WKU upset #24 Vanderbilt 76-69 at the Sommet Center in Nashville, snapping a 10-game losing streak to the Commodores for their first win over Vandy since 1946. On January 4, in a 55-52 home win over Mississippi State, WKU posted its first victory over the Bulldogs since 1959.
►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.
►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.
►DIDDLE DOMINANCE: Since its doors opened on December 7, 1963, the Hilltoppers are 510-135 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).
►DON'T COUNT 'EM OUT: WKU won when trailing at the half on February 20 at Arkansas State for the eighth time in 17 games this season. WKU is now 39-60 when trailing at the half since 2002-03.
►TOP DRAW: The February 20 game at Arkansas State drew 6,059, the 12th time this season WKU has played before a crowd of more than 5,000 fans.
►SLAUGHTER CLIMBS INTO TOP 12 ON CAREER SCORING LIST: With his 13 points against New Orleans, AJ Slaughter now has 1,548 career points, sitting at 12th on the all-time WKU list. Next up is Chris Robinson (1993-96) at 1,656.
►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 703-straight games, ranking as the sixth longest active streak. UNLV, Vanderbilt, and Princeton 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.
►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.
►SLAUGHTER FOR THREE...: Senior guard AJ Slaughter has 204 career three-pointers, ranking fourth all-time at WKU. The Shelbyville, Ky. native is also fourth in career steals with 168.
►PETTIGREW'S PERFORMANCE: Junior Steffphon Pettigrew has notched double figures in 27 of 32 games this season, and in 43 of his last 50 regular season games.
►SLAUGHTER REACHES 1,000: Senior guard AJ Slaughter needed just 14 points entering the season to reach 1,000 for his career. With a then-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.
►WKU RANKED 44th ALL-TIME: With a history and tradition that ranks third all-time in conference championships (41), sixth in 20-win seasons (40), eighth in all-time winning percentage (.673), and 14th in wins (1,626), 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."
►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."
►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.
►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.
►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.
►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 Second-Team and Evans the Third-Team.
►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.
►20-WIN SEASONS: 20 wins in 2009-10 extended WKU's Sun Belt Conference record of consecutive seasons with 20+ wins to six and marked the 40th all-time 20-win season in school history, the sixth highest total in NCAA history.
►HITTING THE CENTURY MARK: 24 wins in 2009-10 would give WKU 100 over the last four years for only the third time in the program's 91-season history (103 wins from 1947-50 and 101 wins from 1935-38).
►NCAA TOURNAMENT WINS: WKU has the Sun Belt Conference's last six NCAA Tournament wins (one in 2009, two in 2008, one in 1995, and two in 1993). The last conference team other than WKU to win an NCAA Tournament game was Louisiana-Lafayette in 1992.
►POSTSEASON PROS: 21 NCAA Tournament appearances and 18 all-time wins are more than any Sun Belt Conference school, and seven Sun Belt Conference Tournament championships (7-4 in tournament title games) and 37 all-time conference tournament wins are the most in Sun Belt history.
►REPEAT THE THREE-PEAT: A Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship this year would make WKU the only school to win the tournament three consecutive seasons on two different occasions. WKU won the conference tournament in 2001, 2002, and 2003 and has won the tournament in 2008 and 2009. UAB is the only other school with three consecutive conference tournament titles, pulling the trifecta in 1982, 1983, and 1984.
►STANDARD BEARER: 25 times Sun Belt teams have finished the season ranked in the final national polls (AP, UPI, USA Today/ESPN), and WKU owns 18 of those 25 final rankings.
►PLAYER OF THE YEAR: A WKU player has been named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in five of the last 10 seasons and WKU has had an All-Conference First-Team selection in each of the last 10 seasons.
►BEST OF THE BEST: Of the Sun Belt Conference's highest individual awards, WKU has had seven student-athletes earn Player of the Year and four named Defensive Player of the Year, the most in the conference in each category.
►AMONG WINNINGEST PROGRAMS: WKU's is one of only 14 programs in the nation with more than 1,600 victories.
►UNPRECEDENTED SUCCESS: Ken McDonald became the 11th WKU head coach to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament when his inaugural squad reached the 2009 tournament. No other program in the country has had 11 different coaches reach the NCAA Tournament.
►CONFERENCE KINGPINS: 41 all-time conference championships rank third in NCAA history, trailing only Kansas (52) and Kentucky (43) on the all-time list.
►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. All 11 WKU head coaches, beginning with E.A. Diddle, have taken a team to the NCAA Tournament, the greatest number of head coaches--at one school--in NCAA history to do such.
►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.