Sidelines with John Clay

Western Kentucky takes first place in C-USA heading into Middle Tennessee clash

Western Kentucky forward Justin Johnson (23) shoots while guarded by UAB forward William Lee (34) during WKU’s 77-69 win in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Bowling Green, Ky.
Western Kentucky forward Justin Johnson (23) shoots while guarded by UAB forward William Lee (34) during WKU’s 77-69 win in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Bowling Green, Ky. Associated Press

Rick Stansbury has things going at Western Kentucky, where the Hilltoppers are now in first place in C-USA heading into Saturday’s showdown with Middle Tennessee.

WKU won its seven straight game, knocking off UAB 77-69 on Thursday night in Bowling Green.

Making his home debut after being cleared by the NCAA on Jan. 5, Josh Anderson made an impact for the Hilltoppers. The 6-foot-6 freshman scored 12 points, grabbed three rebounds and made two steals in 22 minutes off the bench.

Brad Stephens of the Bowling Green Daily News reports: “Anderson was a scoring spark in the first half for the Toppers (14-5 overall, 6-0 Conference USA). He scored seven straight points for WKU during one sequence, scoring on a jumper, a layup and a 3-pointer.

“Anderson scored only three second-half points but made a critical defensive play. With his team down 63-59 and 7:13 left on the clock, the 6-foot-6 guard knocked the ball away from Zack Bryant and into the backcourt, where he kept it alive, gained possession, attacked the UAB basket and was fouled.”

Anderson was a four-star prospect out of Baton Rouge, La. Academic questions had held up his eligibility request.

Justin Johnson, the 6-7 senior from Hazard, led the way with 18 points. Dwight Coleby, who started his college career at Ole Miss before transferring to Kansas and then WKU as a grad transfer, scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots.

Taveion Hollingsworth, a 6-2 freshman from Dunbar High School in Lexington, added 11 points.

[Stansbury says in-state stars Hollingsworth, Ohmer give WKU ‘best of both worlds’]

Now 14-5 overall, WKU sits atop the C-USA standings at 6-0. Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee are tied for second at 5-1. UAB and Marshall are 4-2.

Middle Tennessee saw its five-game win streak snapped Thursday night with a 73-63 loss at Marshall. The Blue Raiders shot just 40.3 percent in the loss.

Western Kentucky is now 46th in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. The Toppers are 48th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 66th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Middle Tennessee is 60th. Middle ranks 106th on offense and 35th on defense.

For comparison, Kentucky is currently 29th overall, 45th in offensive efficiency and 34th in defensive efficiency.

C-USA basketball standings

Team

C-USA

Overall

Western Kentucky

6-0

14-5

Old Dominion

5-1

14-4

Middle Tennessee

5-1

13-5

UAB

4-2

13-6

Marshall

4-2

13-6

North Texas

3-3

10-9

Florida Atlantic

3-3

9-9

Southern Miss

3-4

10-10

UT-San Antonio

2-4

9-10

Florida International

2-4

8-11

UTEP

2-4

7-11

Louisiana Tech

2-5

11-9

Charlotte

1-5

5-12

Rice

1-5

4-15

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