Toppers prepare for battle with Marshall

Matthew Stewart

The Thundering Herd of Marshall (12-12) are heading to Diddle Arena Saturday night to take on the WKU men’s basketball team, who is also sitting at 12-12 on the season.

However, there is a big difference between the two programs as the Hilltoppers are currently 11th in the Conference USA standings with a 4-7 record while Marshall is in third place with an 8-3 record in conference play.

Last season the Toppers faced off against the Herd three times, winning the matchup at home before dropping the second contest in Huntington, West Virginia. WKU won the third matchup in the C-USA tournament as the Toppers ended the Thundering Herd’s season 59-45.

Marshall is a team that brings revenge to the minds of the Toppers. WKU fell to the Thundering Herd earlier in the season on Jan. 3, 2015, by a score of 94-76.

Sophomore forward Justin Johnson managed to have a good night with 24 points and five rebounds. The only other Topper to score in double figures in the outing was redshirt senior guard Aaron Cosby with 10 points.

The Herd put together a successful offensive performance with five players scoring in double figures. Senior forward James Kelly, junior forward Ryan Taylor, junior guard Stevie Browning, sophomore guard Jon Elmore and junior guard Austin Loop each put in 10 points or more.

For the season, this Marshall team has four players averaging double figures compared to the Toppers’ three. Marshall’s James Kelly is averaging 20 

points per game, and Taylor, Elmore and Browning are all averaging at least 12 points per game.

“They [the Herd] have a lot of offensive threats,” senior forward Aleksej Rostov said. “All five guys can shoot the ball, which means that they are extremely difficult to guard, so it will be a challenge.”

The Thundering Herd is averaging 85 points per game, which may present some trouble for a Topper defense that has experienced growing pains this season. Currently WKU is allowing its opponents to score 77 points per game.

Transition defense is one aspect in particular that Head Coach Ray Harper has preached to his team all season long as being a major key to winning games.

The Toppers are preparing to get things on track as they head towards March and tournament time despite coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss against the University of Texas, El Paso.

However, the Tops are still optimistic as C-USA seems to be wide open this season. More than half of the teams in the league currently hold a record that consists of at least six conference losses.

With a team like WKU knocking off the first place UAB Blazers two weeks ago, teams in the league know any team can show up to play at a high level on any given night.

This conference battle is set to tip off at 7 p.m. on Saturday night, and the Toppers will look to improve their conference record to 5-7 in hopes of slowly moving up the conference standings.