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Texas-Arlington (9-10) at Western Kentucky (13-7)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 30, 8 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,326) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: WKU PBS, ESPN3.com. Home Record: UTA 7-3, WKU 8-3. Away Record: UTA 2-7, WKU 5-4. Neutral Record: UTA 0-0, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: UTA 4-3, WKU 5-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.

GAME NOTES: Two of the hottest teams in the Sun Belt Conference will meet up on Thursday night at E.A. Diddle Arena, as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers play host to the Texas-Arlington Mavericks.

UTA is a lackluster 9-10 overall this season, but it has turned things around in recent weeks in a big way by ripping off three straight wins, most recently downing South Alabama at home on Saturday, 73-65. The Mavericks are now above .500 in the Sun Belt for the first time all season (4-3) but are still just 2-7 on the road.

WKU has also earned three straight wins, including last Saturday's 79-70 triumph at Louisiana that moved them to 13-7 overall and 5-2 in league action. The Hilltoppers have played very well on their home floor, winning eight of 11 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

This marks the first-ever meeting between these newly-formed conference rivals.

The Mavericks enjoyed perhaps their most well-rounded victory of the season in the eight-point victory over South Alabama last weekend, as they shot 46.9 percent from the field while holding the Jaguars to a mere 35.5 percent shooting. Reger Dowell acted as the spark plug off the bench, shooting 4-of-9 from 3-point range on his way to 21 points in a performance that helped earn him the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week. Lonnie McClanahan netted 19 points on 7-of-10 from the field, while Brandon Edwards tallied a double- double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

UTA typically doesn't have a problem putting points on the board, as it shoots 43.1 percent from the field and drains 8.5 3-pointers per game for 76.8 ppg. Its scoring defense this season has been lackluster (76.7 ppg), but during its three-game winning streak that number has shrunk to a mere 56.3 ppg. Dowell is the conference's leading scorer with 21.6 ppg, doing a large chunk of his damage from beyond the arc (64-of-167). Edwards is outstanding in the paint with 16.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg and 1.9 bpg, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 81.6 percent from the line. McClanahan (13.6 ppg) and Jamel Outler (10.0 ppg) round out the balanced club.

The Hilltoppers opened up a lead as large as 16 early in the second half of their latest game at Louisiana and managed to hold on down the stretch for the nine-point win. They outshot the Cajuns from the floor, 49.1 percent to 38.3 percent, which helped mask a game-high 16 turnovers. George Fant led all scorers with 25 points, doing so on 10-of-14 from the field and 5-of-5 at the free-throw line. Chris Harrison-Docks overcame six turnovers by pouring in 18 points and Trency Jackson netted 17 points in a reserve role.

WKU is typically outpaced by its opponents from the field, 43.2 percent shooting to 41.4 percent, but it still sports a +2.7 scoring margin by regularly winning the rebounding battle (+4.3) and by knocking down 7.4 3- pointers per contest. T.J. Price is the team's go-to scoring option with 16.8 ppg and also helps out on the defensive end of the floor with more than a steal per tilt. Gant (13.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is a steady source of production in the frontcourt, while Jackson (10.3 ppg) and Harrison-Docks (10.0 ppg) help out regularly despite each shooting less than 40 percent from the field.

UTA's defensive play has improved drastically in recent weeks, and if the trend continues it'll certainly be a contender in the Sun Belt considering its offensive prowess. These two red-hot teams should be in for a back-and-forth battle, but figure for WKU to have the slight edge playing at home.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 75, Texas-Arlington 73

01/30 10:36:02 ET

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