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Western Kentucky guard Josh Anderson dunks the ball in WKU’s 95-91 overtime win over Louisiana Tech on Feb. 27 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Western Kentucky will get its first taste of home league action this weekend.

The Hilltoppers are scheduled to host Louisiana Tech in two games at E.A. Diddle Arena – one scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and the other 6 p.m. Saturday – and will try to get off to a better start after splitting its opening Conference USA series at Charlotte last weekend.

“Just over the past couple of years and the past seasons, we’ve been trying to come back and fight from behind, but I think when you’re playing top teams in the league, there’s certain things you can’t do, like you can’t always just play from behind and come back and win games,” WKU senior guard Josh Anderson said.

WKU (8-3 overall, 1-1 C-USA) struggled to find a flow offensively for much of the series against the 49ers, needing a comeback to win the first game and using another to take a lead in the second half of the second game, before giving that up and losing in overtime.

“We know everything is going to be challenging, but we’ve got a great team and I feel like it’s very important to come out hot, come out prepared, come out ready,” WKU junior forward Kevin Osawe said. “We watched film and we took a lot of key things from that game, and we’ll be prepared from now on.”

WKU and Louisiana Tech (8-3, 1-1) were among the majority of C-USA’s teams to open league play last weekend by splitting its series of back-to-back games on back-to-back days against the same opponent in the same location – the new format for the 2020-21 season. Only Rice is 2-0, beating UTSA twice to open the new year, and four teams – UAB, North Texas, FAU and Middle Tennessee – didn’t get a league game in.

The Hilltoppers and Bulldogs each picked up a victory in the first game of their series. WKU beat Charlotte 67-63 and then lost in overtime 75-71. The Bulldogs beat Marshall in Ruston, La., 75-68, and then lost 80-73 when the Thundering Herd overcame a 17-point second-half deficit.

WKU’s loss snapped a six-game winning streak. The Hilltoppers enter the weekend averaging 75.9 points per game – the eighth-most in the league. Charles Bassey leads the team with 16.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, but has been slowed the team’s last few games after taking an elbow to the back in a win at Alabama.

Taveion Hollingsworth is averaging 15.1 points and is coming off a 23-point performance, where he scored all but two points after halftime. The senior guard scored 43 points the last time WKU and Louisiana Tech met, including a tying 3-pointer with two seconds left to send the game to overtime, where the Hilltoppers won 95-91.

Anderson, Luke Frampton and Jordan Rawls each add over eight points per game. Anderson needs just eight points to hit 1,000 in his career, and Hollingsworth needs just 20 minutes played to pass Courtney Lee for the program’s record for most minutes played in a career. He enters the game with 3,938 career minutes.

Louisiana Tech is seventh in the league in scoring defense, allowing 67.8 points per game, and is 10th in scoring offense at 74.6 points per game. The Bulldogs do it with a balanced attack, led by 6-foot-4 redshirt senior guard Kalob Ledoux’s 12.8 points per game. Louisiana Tech has six players – Ledoux, Kenneth Lofton Jr., Isaiah Crawford, Amorie Archibald, JaColby Pemberton and Cobe Williams – averaging over 8.5 points.

Ledoux – C-USA’s Sixth Man of the Year last season – was held under his average in both games against Marshall, including just one point in the victory.

“Like always, they’re really quick and they’re athletic,” Stansbury said. “They’ve got good experience on that team and the biggest difference is they’ve got six guys that’s made 10 or more 3s. That’s something that’s always a weapon.

“There’s six guys close to double digits every night. They’ve got great balance, they’re a very athletic team, multiple guys can shoot the ball, and when you’ve got multiple guys that can shoot the basketball, anything can happen on a given night. No question they’re a really good basketball team.”

Louisiana Tech added Lofton this season. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound freshman forward is second on the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game in just 20.3 minutes of action. He had eight points and five rebounds in the loss to Marshall, but an efficient 15 points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes in Friday’s victory, and took a team-high eight free throws. The Bulldogs have attempted 243 free throws this season and WKU has attempted 227. The next highest total in C-USA is UAB’s 195.

“He’s just one of those guys that knows how to play. He’s got a big ol’ body – you can’t teach that – and he knows how to play,” Stansbury said. “A lefty, below-the-rim guy, but crafty and knows how to go in there and use his body to get his shot off, he knows how to go in there with the ball and draw fouls. I think he’s attempted about twice as many free throws as anybody else because he’s very savvy and crafty in there around that rim doing that.”

WKU won both meetings at E.A. Diddle Arena against Louisiana Tech last season and is 19-16 all-time against the Bulldogs.

LOUISIANA TECH (8-3, 1-1) AT WESTERN KENTUCKY (8-3, 1-1)

7 p.m., Friday/6 p.m. Saturday, E.A. Diddle Arena

Probable starters

LOUISIANA TECH

Cobe Williams, g, 5-11, so. (8.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Amorie Archibald, g, 6-3, sr. (9.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg); Kalob Ledoux, g, 6-4, r-sr. (12.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Kenneth Lofton Jr., f, 6-7, fr. (10.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg); JaColby Pemberton, g, 6-5, r-sr. (9.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg).

WESTERN KENTUCKY

Taveion Hollingsworth, g, 6-2, sr. (15.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Kenny Cooper, g, 6-0, r-sr. (2.5 ppg, 2.5 apg); Charles Bassey, c, 6-11, jr. (16.3 ppg, 11.1 rpg); Carson Williams, f, 6-5, r-sr. (5.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Josh Anderson, g, 6-6, sr. (9.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

Television

CBSSN on Facebook

Radio

Hilltopper Sports Network

Coaches

Eric Konkol (113-60, sixth year; 113-60 overall), Louisiana Tech; Rick Stansbury (90-55, fifth year; 383-221 overall), WKU.

Series record

WKU leads the series 19-16 (The Hilltoppers won the last meeting 95-91 in overtime Feb. 27 at E.A. Diddle Arena).

Last time out

Louisiana Tech lost to Marshall 80-73 on Saturday in Ruston, La.; WKU lost 75-71 in overtime at Charlotte on Saturday.{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.

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