Hoops Rivalry With Hilltoppers Renewed Thursday
Two Of The Sun Belt's Best Continue Showdown Series In C-USA
North Texas (9-11, 3-5 C-USA) at WKU (15-6, 8-1 C-USA)
BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky - Two of the most successful programs in Sun Belt history are reunited in rivalry once again in Conference USA. North Texas is traveling to Western Kentucky to compete against the Hilltoppers for the first time since 2012-13.
Prior to NT leaving the SBC to join C-USA in 2013, NT and WKU had combined to win six of the previous seven SBC Tournament titles. In SBC history, Only UAB (71.4 percent) had a better all-time record in the league's tournament than WKU (68.1) and NT (61.5).
Either NT or WKU advanced to the Sun Belt Tournament title game from 2006 through 2011, and in 2012 they faced each other in the finals. NT won a pair of SBC titles in 2007 and 2010, while the Hilltoppers won three titles in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
The 2012 championship game featured No. 7 seed WKU and No. 5 seed NT, and the underdog Hilltoppers outlasted the Mean Green, 74-70, thanks to 23 points from Teeng Akol. NT led by 13 points with 12:45 remaining.
The Hilltoppers won the final meeting between the two programs as Sun Belt members, 70-59, on Feb. 7, 2013. NT clawed back from an 11-point second half deficit, but a late 11-2 WKU run sealed a fifth straight loss for NT. A Jordan Williams 3-pointer with 4:33 to play tied the game at 51. Jordan had 15 points, while Alzee Williams had a game-high 17. George Fant and Jamal Crook led WKU with 14 points each.
Williams has always enjoyed facing the Hilltoppers. The senior is averaging 16.3 points in three meetings with WKU, and is shooting 43.9 percent from the floor, including 8-of-14 (57.1) from 3-point. Williams tallied a team-high 19 points in Saturday's win over Rice.
Colin Voss didn't reach Williams' scoring numbers, but scored the Owls with five assists - the most by an NT forward since George Odufuwa tallied six dimes against Troy in the 2011 Sun Belt Tournament.