Hilltoppers look to put five-game losing streak to rest with weekend road trip

Graduate+guard+Camron+Justice+loses+the+ball+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.%2C+29.+WKU+lost+93-85.

Tucker Covey

Graduate guard Camron Justice loses the ball on Saturday, Jan., 29. WKU lost 93-85.

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Men's Basketball Reporter

WKU Basketball (10-11, 2-6 C-USA) head coach Rick Stansbury met with the media Wednesday afternoon ahead of the Hilltoppers’ matchups against the Charlotte 49ers (11-8, 4-3 C-USA) and the Old Dominion Monarchs (8-12, 3-4 C-USA). 

“We’re going to keep fighting with what we got right now,” Stansbury said. “Make sure everybody understands this: I dont blink, I dont blink. When things get tough, that’s when [we] will be at our best, staying positive and keep working and keep grinding, that’s just the only way I know how to do it.”

On the back of a five-game losing streak, WKU will be heading into one of the toughest places to play in Conference USA — Halton Arena, home of the 49ers. Charlotte is 8-1 at home with its lone loss coming at the beginning of the season to Davidson. The Hilltoppers are 1-7 away from Diddle Arena. 

The last time these two teams played was last year on back-to-back nights with the teams splitting the series, WKU taking the first and Charlotte taking the second in overtime. 

A common factor that will also be in this game is the 49ers’ leading scorer, junior Jahmir Young, who leads the team and is third overall in the conference in scoring. He puts up 18.8 points per game. Young was big in last year’s game for the 49ers’ victory, scoring 24 points with seven assists and shooting 9-of-11 from the free throw line. 

Charlotte is near the bottom of the league in terms of scoring, averaging 69 points while giving up 71 points, which is 12th in the league. 

As free throws become a bigger factor in these close games, the 49ers post the best free throw percentage in the league but have taken the least amount of free throws. 

The Hilltoppers will travel to Norfolk, Va., to take on Old Dominion after facing the 49ers. The Monarchs are struggling as of late and have already surpassed the amount of losses that they had total last year. 

They have four guys that average double-digit points. Leading the way is senior C.J. Keyser, averaging 14 points, two assists and three rebounds. 

ODU is near last in every major statistical category but has a top-five defense in the league, only allowing 66 points per game and holding opponents to 42% from the field. 

The matchups between WKU and ODU have always been a defense-based game over the years, with relatively low scoring and championship implications. 

The Monarchs are one of the few teams to have a winning record against the Hilltoppers, winning two of the last three matchups. Their loss was a crowning moment for WKU, winning the C-USA East division last year. 

“None of us like losing, it’s not the norm for this program, not the norm for myself ever,” Stansbury said. “So as much as everybody else dislikes losing, I can promise you we dislike it more. There’s nobody missing a free throw [purposely] or not trying to win every game. From that standpoint my guys are great, they keep things in perspective. We know where we’re at, we know what we’re doing, we know that better than anybody outside of those lines. We know what we’re fighting with, they know how close it’s been.”

WKU’s matchup against Charlotte will be Thursday night at 6:00 followed by the Saturday game against Old Dominion at 6 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN+. 

Men’s Basketball Reporter Kaden Gaylord-Day can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @_KLG3.