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WKU Basketball: One Big Thing Before the Hilltoppers Tip-Off Against Murray State
The Tops look to get back in the win column against an old rival they haven’t faced in nearly a decade. Here’s what The Towel Rack’s staff will be looking for Tuesday night.
After their gritty effort in a tough loss to Wichita State on Thursday, the Hilltoppers return to the court in the Bluegrass state to take on Murray State for the first time since the 2014 season.
As we’re want to do here at The Towel Rack, we’re trying something new as we’re still in the early stages of the basketball season. Instead of your “traditional” preview story, today we’re launching One Big Thing, a feature that’ll run throughout the basketball season (as well as what’s left of the football campaign) and hopefully become a staple of our coverage.
Of course, if this is not something you enjoy, let us know - we are a site that aims to please the people. But, we hope you enjoy.
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So, what exactly is One Big Thing you may be asking? Before every game, a smattering of Towel Rack writers will lay out what the No. 1 thing they’ll be looking for in a given matchup: Could be a question, a storyline, a trend they’d like to see continue (or stop).
In other words, what the One Big Thing they’ll be looking for that evening is.
So, let’s waste no more time and get to tonight’s One Big Thing as the Tops look to get back in the win column against the Racers (7 p.m. CT, ESPN+).
Fletcher Keel - Who Is Going to Become “The Dude”?
Something I discussed towards the end of our recap on Thursday was about how the Hilltoppers lack a “dude.” The guy that, when the game is on the line or a spark is needed, you can expect to go into another mode for a couple of minutes and single-handedly go on a six or eight-point run.
I’m fully aware that, with essentially a brand new roster this year, that guy wont show himself for a while. We might not know until conference play starts. But, I’d like to see signs that someone has that in them.
Thursday, for example, you could almost see it in a few guys: Khristian Lander, Don McHenry and Rodney Howard all had times where, even if they weren’t getting shots to fall (something that was a struggle to do for the Tops all game, especially in the second half) they still had the opportunity to make something happen.
I bet when it’s all said and done, one of those (if not multiple of those) three guys is “the” guy. But, against the Racers, can someone break through the noise and become the early season standout?
Matt McCay - Consistent Low Post Play
I predict most people are going to be thinking about the three point streak, and rightfully so. But the one thing I want to see at Murray is some low post production.
WKU may not have the depth down low, but the top three big men for the Tops (Rodney Howard, Babacar Faye, Tyrone Marshall) have an interesting combination of low post moves, hustle and athleticism. If the big fellas are going to have a big game, it should be against a good but somewhat undersized and not super deep unit themselves.
When I look at Murray, I see an opportunity to exploit the Racers down low. And guess what? If the post is open, so should be the dish to the open three. It will be crucial for WKU to be able to score going forward. No one has shot as well as they should have in the first two games, but the big boys need to be efficient in addition to being productive.
Devin Stewart - Make Some 3’s
Finally, the lights have come on in E.A. Diddle arena and WKU has squeaked their shoes cross the paint. So after the first couple of outings, what do we wanna see?
3s! Recently the streak that had been going since before I was born was broken. WKU lost to Witchita St. and the streak fell. Both crap, but for something that’s been going for 36+ years. It’s pretty tough.
Let’s get the three point game back and dominate Murray St.
Jared Rosdeutscher - Keep Defensive Intensity
Despite some awful shooting against Wichita State, the other end of the court looked great to start this new era of WKU hoops. This team fights extremely hard on the defensive end and was incredibly disruptive as they held the Shockers to only 71 points in their own building and forced 19 turnovers.
I believe the shooting will come in time but as long as they stay this locked in on defense, look for them to keep any game close. Murray State will be another good test for this team but if they can play with the same level of defensive intensity as they did against Wichita State and shoot a little better then don’t be surprised if the Tops finally get back in the win column against the Racers.
Alex Sherfield - Keep It Close
It’s a darling of a rivalry that’s being renewed at the CFSB Center. While it’s not a shocker that the Racers are heavily favored, WKU can still find some ways to pull off a road win in Murray. I would look towards more of an effort of putting up points to keep up with an MVC ballclub that averaged 70.4 points per contest last season. While it’s still early in the current season, the Racers have surpassed it twice already, including allowing 72 points to Tennessee Tech last Friday.
Coach Lutz hit the nail on the head saying that the abysmal three-point performance will likely never happen again, they need more than beyond-the-arc play to make tonight a better outcome. Spreading the ball around more & better shot selection should be on the list for the Tops to get an early rhythm to quell the Racers.
Jacob Gary - The Intensity
The one thing i want to see is the intensity. I want it to continue.
Last game vs. Wichita State, WKU could’ve easily gave up in the second half when they went cold from the floor and the Shockers built a 12-point lead, but they continued to fight and, ultimately, came away with a 10 point loss to a solid team.
I want to see that fight again against Murray. I dont care if they’re down 20 or up 20, I want to see the effort be continued. At times during the last tenure, the effort was missing. I just want to see balls-to-the-wall effort and intensity all game. Because I think its a very winnable game after Murray struggled with Tennessee Tech. And if Lutz’s squad brings the intensity for 40 minutes, we might just be talking about a WKU win in the morning.