HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Let’s try this again.
After having its scheduled Conference USA opener at Southern Miss on Thursday canceled due to COVID-19 issues in the Golden Eagles’ program, Western Kentucky will now open C-USA play Saturday at 1 p.m. against Louisiana Tech at Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.
The Hilltoppers (8-5) were planning on the trip to Hattiesburg to open league play with a game at Reed Green Coliseum, but the game was called off Wednesday shortly before the team was slated to depart. C-USA will explore options to reschedule the game at a later date.
So now WKU will head directly to Louisiana Tech to ring in the new year and league play against the Bulldogs.
Louisiana Tech entered league play with a 9-3 record and was scheduled to host Marshall on Thursday in a game that started after the Daily News’ press deadline.
The Bulldogs and Hilltoppers had two of the top five scoring offenses in C-USA in nonconference play – Louisiana Tech ranks third in the league with 80.7 points per game, while WKU averages 77.2 – and were two teams with high expectations entering the 2021-22 season. Louisiana Tech was picked second in the C-USA preseason poll – UAB was first – and got six first-place votes, and WKU was picked third. The two met three times last season, splitting in the regular season before the Bulldogs ended the Hilltoppers’ season in the NIT.
Louisiana Tech is led by Kenneth Lofton Jr. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound forward was third in C-USA through the nonconference portion of the schedule with 18.1 points per game and first in rebounding with 10.1 per game – he’s the only player averaging a double-double in the league. Lofton was a preseason all-conference honoree, as well as teammate Isaiah Crawford, but the Bulldogs announced in early December that Crawford would miss the remainder of the 2021-22 season due to injury.
The Bulldogs had two others averaging double-figure scoring in the nonconference schedule – Amorie Archibald at 13.6 points per game and Keaston Willis at 10.7.
Jairus Hamilton has led WKU this season with 15.7 points per game, while point guard Dayvion McKnight has added 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Camron Justice and Josh Anderson have added double-figure scoring at 13.2 and 11.7 points per game, and Luke Frampton is right behind with 9.2 per game. Center Jamarion Sharp has averaged 8.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and five blocks per game.
The Hilltoppers lead the all-time series 20-18.
Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.