Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Saint Mary's Evan Fitzner (21) shoots against Western Kentucky's Ben Lawson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in Moraga, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot

No. 20 St. Mary’s races past Western Kentucky

Leave a comment

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Jock Landale had 15 points and 13 rebounds and No. 20 Saint Mary’s jumped to a quick lead it never relinquished to beat Western Kentucky 73-51 on Wednesday night.

Evan Fitzner scored eight of his team’s first 12 points as the Gaels took control from the tip. He finished with 11 points and three 3-pointers, while Emmett Naar had 14 points and six assists.

Landale went 7 for 13 from the field and is shooting 65 of 99 — 65.6 percent — on the season for the Gaels (8-1), who used a late 13-2 run in the first half for a 38-24 lead.

Justin Johnson and Que Johnson each scored 11 points to lead Western Kentucky (4-6).

Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett has challenged his team recently to play with more defensive fire, and the Gaels shut down Pancake Thomas. A graduate transfer in his first season with the Hilltoppers, Thomas shot 2 of 8 for four points and missed his three tries from 3-point range after getting a season-best 22 points in a win over Indiana State on Sunday.

The Hilltoppers shot 37.5 percent and 5 of 17 from 3-point range to lose for the fifth time in six games.

Saint Mary’s guard Joe Rahon limped off with a right leg injury with 4:37 left before halftime then returned just before intermission.

In the first meeting between the programs, Saint Mary’s jumped to a 7-0 lead in the opening 2:27 and 12-2 then never looked back.

BIG PICTURE

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers’ 24 first-half points matched their season low. … WKU dropped to 35-97 all-time against ranked opponents and hasn’t won a true road game against a Top 25 team since stunning No. 4 Kentucky on Nov. 15, 2001. … Coach Rick Stansbury still needs three wins for 300 career victories. … The Hilltoppers will have gone 29 days between home games.

Saint Mary’s: The Hilltoppers were Saint Mary’s second Conference USA opponent after a win over UAB late last month. … Top Warriors assistant Mike Brown sat courtside on an off day before Golden State hosts the Knicks on Thursday. Brown played at San Diego for 16th-year Gaels coach Bennett.

UP NEXT

Western Kentucky: At Detroit Mercy on Saturday to conclude a stretch of seven games on the road or at neutral sites over nearly a month’s time covering more than 10,000 miles and hitting six states.

Saint Mary’s: Host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday in the fourth game of a five-game home stand before the start of conference play.

Stansbury lands another high-level recruit at Western Kentucky

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - JANUARY 7:    Head Coach Rick Stansbury of the Mississippi State Bulldogs signals to his players during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on January 7, 2012 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Bulldogs 98-88.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Rick Stansbury already has drawn a five-star recruit to Western Kentucky.

On Tuesday, he added a four-star shooting guard.

Consensus top-60 Class of 2017 recruit Josh Anderson committed to the Hilltoppers on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

It continues Stansbury’s uncanny success in Bowling Green since taking over the program just months ago. Although, given his recruiting at Mississippi State as a head coach and Texas A&M, what he’s doing with the Hilltoppers shouldn’t be a surprise.

The first sign that Stansbury would be able to lure big-time recruits to Conference USA came in June when he convinced five-star center Mitchell Robinson, who committed to the Aggies when Stansbury was on staff, to follow him to Western Kentucky.

Now, Stansbury has added Anderson, a Baton Rouge, La. product who had offers from N.C. State, Baylor, Stanford, LSU and Florida.

“Josh Anderson is another huge grab for Western Kentucky as he gives the Hilltoppers a guard who can make plays off the dribble,” NBCSports recruiting analyst Scot Phillips said. “Coupled with five-star center Mitchell Robinson, Anderson forms a dynamic duo that will be among the conference’s best when they hit the floor. Anderson’s ability to draw defenses in with his dribble penetration will be his biggest early contribution.”

Stansbury has now gotten commitments from a top-10 and top-60 player after just a few months on the job. That’s an arsenal of players that the rest of the conference simply won’t be able to match, making the Hilltoppers the likely 2018 conference favorites 14 months before that season even begins.

Western Kentucky gets five-star commitment

rick-stansbury
2 Comments

Rick Stansbury’s long been known for his ability to recruit talent of the highest level. On Wednesday, he showed he doesn’t need to be at the sport’s highest level to do it.

Mitchell Robinson, a consensus top-20 recruit in the 2017 class, committed to Stansbury and Western Kentucky, giving the Hilltoppers a monster recruit for Conference USA, according to multiple reports.

The 7-footer from Louisiana was previously committed to Texas A&M, where Stansbury worked as an assistant under Billy Kennedy, but de-committed a month after Stansbury left for Bowling Green, Ky.

It’s hard to overstate the immensity of this recruiting coup for Stansbury as he begins his second stint as a head coach after spending 14 years at the helm of Mississippi State. A prospect of Robinson’s caliber attending a non-traditional power or a program outside the Power 5 just almost never happens. Emmanuel Mudiay signed with SMU in 2014, but eventually wound up overseas after eligibility issues. The Mustangs also got Keith Frazier, but he played only a semester for them and was at the center of an NCAA investigation that ultimately ended with significant sanctions. Danuel House (Houston), Winston Shephard (San Diego State) and Adjehi Baru (Charleston) are the only other top-30 recruits in the past five years to sign and play for a school of that ilk. It’s quite the accomplishment for Stansbury and Co.

The key, of course, will be for Stansbury will be to keep Robinson in the fold and then surround him with solid – if not necessarily blue chip – players. And the knock against Stansbury in Starkville was his lack of big-time success with big-time talent. With Robinson, he’ll have the opportunity to change that perception.

Jacksonville State hires Harper

Ray Harper
3 Comments

Ray Harper has been hired as the newest coach of Jacksonville State, the school announced Wednesday evening.

After a four-and-half-year stint at Western Kentucky, Harper resigned last month with two NCAA tournaments and a record of 89-64 on his resume. The Hilltoppers went 18-16 overall and 8-10 in Conference USA last season.

“We are thrilled to have Ray Harper take over our men’s basketball program,” Gamecocks athletic director Greg Seitz said in a statement released by the school.
“He is a winner and has proven that at every stop he has made in his coaching career. We feel fortunate to be able to land a coach with his credentials at Jacksonville State.”

Jacksonville State is betting on Harper’s long list of achievements, which includes two NAIA national championships as a head coach, after the school and former coach James Green “mutually agreed to part ways” last month.

Harper has shown the ability to bend his style to the team he has, but traditionally has sported teams that are strong on both ends of the floor.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Harper said in a statement. “We are going to work extremely hard and we are going to be about winning championships. We know it’s going to be a lot of work, but we are ready to get started.”

The Gamecocks, who finished the year with eight-straight losses, return leading scorer Malcom Drumwright, who missed the last part of the season with a shoulder injury, as well as most of the rest of last year’s core contributors.

European shooting guard not joining Western Kentucky program

Ray Harper
Leave a comment

With four of their top five scorers from last season’s 20-win team having moved on, Western Kentucky enters in the 2015-16 season in need of options to step up alongside junior guard Chris Harrison-Docks. One possibility on the perimeter was guard Kristaps Gluditis, a native of the Czech Republic whose perimeter shooting ability was praised by head coach Ray Harper earlier this summer.

Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, Gluditis will not be with the team this season according to the Bowling Green Daily News. The reason is that Gluditis, who is eligible to compete by NCAA standards, did not meet the school’s academic standards for international students. In regards to college basketball Gluditis has three options at this point according to the report: retake the exam in hopes of joining the team midyear, enroll at a junior college or enroll at another four-year school since he’s cleared by the NCAA.

Without Gluditis additions such as grad student Aaron Cosby, junior college transfer Fredrick Edmond and freshmen Chris McNeal and Marlon Hunter Jr. have an even greater opportunity to earn minutes than they did when it was assumed that Giuditis would be joining the WKU program. Each of those players will need to step forward to relieve some of the pressure due to be heaped upon Harrison-Docks.

Harrison-Docks, who led the Hilltoppers in minutes per game (33.6 mpg) and started 30 of the team’s 32 games, averaged 11.1 points per contest in 2014-15. After Harrison-Docks WKU’s most productive returnee is junior forward Ben Lawson, who averaged 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.

Former Tennessee forward transferring to Western Kentucky

(AP)
Leave a comment

Another of the players who transferred from Tennessee in the aftermath of a coaching change from Donnie Tyndall to Rick Barnes has found a new school to call home.

Willie Carmichael III, who started 19 games as a freshman, announced on social media that he’s decided to transfer to Western Kentucky. Carmichael averaged 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman, and his best game of the 2014-15 season came in a late November win over Texas Southern.

Carmichael accounted for ten points and seven rebounds in that game, the lone contest in which he managed to score in double figures. Both numbers represented season highs for Carmichael, who also blocked two shots in the victory. After sitting out the 2015-16 season Carmichael will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Carmichael joins a front court that will lose just one player at the end of the 2015-16 season in rising senior Aleksejs Rostov. Among the front court players who will have eligibility remaining when Carmichael’s able to suit up are rising junior Ben Lawson, junior college transfers Anton Waters and Phabian Glasco, sophomore Justin Johnson and freshman Nathan Smith.

Carmichael’s the second Division I transfer to join Ray Harper’s program this spring, with Aaron Cosby making the move from Illinois. As a graduate student Cosby, who began his career at Seton Hall, will be eligible to play immediately.

h/t Bowling Green Daily News