WKU hits the road for Sun Belt opener

Junior guard Brandon Harris shoots 2 free throws after a technical fowl is called on Brescia. WKU won 74-46 against Brescia on Saturday Nov. 24, 2012 at Diddle Arena.

Lucas Aulbach

Conference realignment and bowl talks may have been the topics of conversation for the week around WKU, but the basketball Toppers have other things on their minds.

The Toppers will be on the road once again Thursday as they kick off their Sun Belt Conference schedule against Louisiana-Monroe.

WKU (4-2) will take on ULM (0-2) in Monroe, La., at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (WKYU, ESPN3).

The last time the Toppers hit the court, they earned a clear win over NAIA Division II Brescia. Coach Ray Harper wasn’t pleased with his team after the win, though — the Toppers recorded nine assists to 15 turnovers and connected on just 1-of-21 three-point shots.

Junior guard Brandon Harris said shooting is one area the Toppers are working to improve on.

“I saw something in the newspaper I was reading today when I was in study hall — we’re like 30-of-130 from three,” he said (for the record, the Toppers are actually 30-of-123 from beyond the arc this year.) “I know we can shoot the ball a lot better than that.”

Harris and the Toppers will have their next shot at improvement when they kick off conference play at ULM.

The Warhawks may have fielded one of the finer Sun Belt football teams this season, but their basketball team has struggled the past few years. ULM has won just 12 games over the course of the past two seasons and have gotten off to a winless start this year.

ULM has played just two games so far this season due to NCAA sanctions stemming from a poor academic progress rate score.

Harper said the significance of this game goes beyond the Warhawks’ record.

“Bottom line is, it’s the start of conference play,” he said Tuesday. “To be able to go on the road and get wins in conference play is huge if you’re going to try to win a conference championship.”

The Toppers have played with speed on the fastbreak this season, averaging eight steals per game and hitting 48.7 percent of shots taken from inside the arc.

Harper said he expects ULM to try and slow the game down with zone defense.

“I think they would probably prefer the game to be a slower pace,” he said. “Hopefully we can dictate the tempo a little bit.”

The Toppers will have one more stop on the road after Monroe before they return to Bowling Green — at Troy Saturday for the second game of WKU’s Sun Belt schedule.