The Denver Pioneers face a huge road test this evening, as they travel to historic Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, KY, to face the Sun Belt’s glamour program, Western Kentucky. Tipoff is 6:00 PM Mountain Time. The game will be televised on Fox College Sports, which, of course, I don’t get. (Anyone have a stream? Argh.) [UPDATE: Never mind; it looks like the game is also on PioneerVision. Yay! I can watch!]
Denver arrives in Bowling Green riding a 4-game winning streak — but of course, all of those wins have been at home, and the Pioneers have struggled mightily on the road under Joe Scott. This is DU’s first conference road game of the season, and an opportunity to make a huge statement if they could pull out the victory.
Western Kentucky, meanwhile, is desperate for a win, for reasons that are explained here:
The Hilltoppers will be taking the home floor for the first time since an embarrassing 114-82 home loss to Louisville on Dec. 22 in front of a capacity crowd.
WKU (5-8, 0-1 Sun Belt) has also dropped three straight games, has lost seven of nine and is off to its worst start as a program since the 1999-2000 season.
Denver has beaten WKU in their last two meetings, but both of those were at Magness Arena. The Pioneers are 0-4 all time when playing the Hilltoppers on their home floor. So a win would be an enormous step forward for DU. And a loss would be an equally huge step backward for WKU, as this WKU fan message-board thread makes clear. The original poster asked, “Valid question: What if Denver beats us at home Thursday?” Among the responses:
We win this one. A loss to this Denver team at home would be…well, I don’t want to think about it.
–DEAD LAST in this great nation, #345, in 3ptFG% Def. DEAD LAST. By a lot. Teams are scorching them for a whopping 43.7% from deep. DEAD LAST.
–DEAD LAST in OppFTRate. Meaning, they send teams to the line more than ANY TEAM IN THIS FAIR COLLECTION OF UNITED STATES. DEAD LAST.
–fantastic at shooting a basketball. #20 nationally in eFG%. #16 in 3-ptFG%. They can shoot it.
–force a lot of TOs. #28 best.
If this game is in Denver, we lose. Probably big. But, it’s at home. Ready for the stat o’ the year? Denver is 4-54 in their last 58 road games. I stopped counting after that…it’s probably even uglier if you go back further. Two of those wins came at the end of the year 2 seasons ago when they were playing well. Two came last year @SD State and @New Orleans (one of the worst DI teams in the land).
Seriously, if we lose this game…and I hate hyperbole…it will be one of, if not the worst, home losses in WKU history.
And this reply:
I think we win, but Katy bar the door if we don’t. I can’t really imagine what will happen if we do. Maybe the scene from ‘Bruce Almighty’ when there is rioting in the streets.
That said, Zeke, some things pop out at me:
1) We’re not super hot at hitting the 3 ourselves. We have spurts, but nothing consistent. Better at Ark State, but not great. Will their 3 pt def matter that much?
2) If we go inside it looks like we should either get a basket or more than likely a foul and trip to the line. Not sure about the free throw shooting lately. Has it improved?
3) If they can shoot, we have issues. Ark State went off on us– and that was one guy. I don’t feel well knowing that 2-3 could do it.
4) We have limited point guard options. Are they gonna make us return to 20+ turnovers a game?
This should be a win. But will it be an EASY, BIG MARGIN win?? I’m not necessarily expecting that but many others are along with a decent team performance. Poor play and/or a close win might not be looked upon as a good thing by the masses.
Anyway, here’s a bit more from DU SID Mike Kennedy about Western Kentucky’s tradition:
Kyle Lewis and Rob Lewis are the only players who have been here before, so the rest of the team gets to experience the most historic venue in the Sun Belt Conference for the first time.
WKU is the only current Sun Belt Conference team with a Final Four banner hanging in its rafters (although the NCAA later vacated the Hilltoppers’ 1971 run through the Tournament), and it is without question the SBC team with the most success.
The Hilltoppers have been to the NCAA Tournament 21 times, including a run to the Sweet 16 in 2008 and a trip to the Second Round in 2009. The team has had 38 players named All-American, and none of WKU’s coaches has ever had a losing record.
E.A. Diddle, the namesake of WKU’s arena, coached his teams to 759 win from 1922-64. Among the coaches to follow Diddle were Gene Keady, who went on to legendary status as head coach at Purdue, and Clem Haskins, who coached Minnesota to a Final Four (and was also an All-American while playing for WKU).
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