WKU is set to take on UNC Charlotte on Thursday, and head coach Rick Stansbury wants a big turnout for the second-to-last home game of the year.
The second-year head coach challenged the student body to pack Diddle Arena and once again create an environment that is tough for opponents to play in.
“The key to a sellout are the students,” Stansbury said. “We have two home games left, a team that’s fighting for our lives and a team that’s pretty exciting to watch. We need you in there Thursday night, hanging out of the rafters. You all are the ones that make the difference. You create the atmosphere in Diddle Arena. It all starts with the students. Nobody has a job without the students. That’s why there’s a Western Kentucky University.”
The Hilltoppers (20-7, 12-2 Conference USA) are on the verge of their most wins in a season since 2008-09. When they take on Charlotte Thursday night, they’ll have an opportunity to clinch a first round bye in the C-USA Tournament. Charlotte will look to play spoiler and put a devastating blow to WKU’s chances of earning the number one seed in the C-USA tournament.
The 49ers currently sit at 5-20 (1-13 C-USA) and already lost to WKU 73-63 earlier this season at home. In that match-up, Charlotte was within five points of the Hilltoppers with under 10 minutes to play but WKU pulled away late.
“They’re a physical team. The first game was a close game and we had to fight the whole way,” Graduate transfer forward Dwight Coleby said. “Most people thought it would be an easy win for us, but it was a grind it out game. We just have to take every game as the same and be ready to compete.”
Charlotte’s Jon Davis (16 points per game) and Andrien White (14.7 PPG) lead Charlotte, and they combined for 44 points in that initial match-up. But the two didn’t get much help from their teammates as they were the only two to break double figures in the loss. If the 49ers want to upset WKU in Diddle Arena and end a 12 game losing streak, Davis and White will need another big game as well as some help. Freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth scored 10 points in the initial matchup and will likely be tasked with defending Davis on Thursday.
“Davis has had a great year, he’s averaging 18 points in Conference play,” Stansbury said. “His running mate White is averaging 17 points. Those are two guys that hurt us last time and are capable of taking over a game and finding a way to win.”
WKU and Charlotte tip off at 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena. As of Wednesday night, the game is not a sellout and Stansbury hopes to see the student section packed to give WKU a true home-court advantage.
“Come out and create the environment,” Stansbury said. “Enjoy the environment and help us because it means so much to our basketball team when its packed. Our fans can make the difference in the game.”
Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.