Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Houston Cougars – NCAAM February 25

Western Kentucky (15-4, 8-2) at No. 12 Houston (17-3, 11-3)

  • Time: 4PM PST | 6PM CST | 7PM EST
  • Location: Fertitta Center, Houston, TX
  • TV: ESPN2

Opening Tip

This is a solid non-conference matchup between two teams who could play at least into the second weekend in the NCAA Tournament. Western Kentucky is tied with North Texas atop Conference USA, but leads the CUSA East by two games over ODU. as they are tied in the loss column with two losses. Houston is one game back of Wichita State in the American.

The Hilltoppers have won six in a row and seven out of eight as they had two games at Florida Atlantic postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Owls program. Houston is 2-2 in it’s last four as the Cougars were upset at East Carolina on Feb. 3 and then they lost a showdown for first at Wichita State, 68-63, on Feb. 18.

Houston leads the series 3-1 as the two teams have not played since the 2009-10 season. Hilltoppers coach Rick Stansbury is 2-0 vs. the Cougars and Houston’s Kelvin Sampson is 1-0 vs. WKU.

Vs. The Spread

Western Kentucky:

  • The Hilltoppers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of WKU’s last 6 outings
  • The ‘Toppers are 5-1 SU in their last 6 road games

Houston:

  • The Cougars are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games
  • The OVER has been the play in 4 of UH’s last 5 games
  • Houston is 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games

Last Time Out

The Hilltoppers swept Rice as they plucked the Owls, 89-66, last Sunday following a 77-71 win. The Hilltoppers shot 56.1 percent and nailed 14 of 28 triples. Charles Bassey was phenomenal again as he had 21 points in making nine of 10 shots while Taveion Hollingsworth had 16 points and seven assists.

Houston blasted Cincinnati, 90-52, on 20 points and eight rebounds from Quentin Grimes. The Cougars shot 47 percent from the floor and made 19 of 21 free throws. Houston turned 13 Cincinnati turnovers into 22 points.

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Western Kentucky +11 (-105) +500 O 136 (-110)
Houston -11 (-115) -650 U 136 (-110)

Advantage, WKU

Western Kentucky HilltoppersStart with big man Charles Bassey (18.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg) who looks like a solid first round pick with his 6-11, 235-pound frame. He will have a potentially big choice to make as he is a junior, but first things first. He is third in the nation with 3.2 dunks per game and third in the nation in rebounding. He has scored in double figures in all 19 games as he shoots 61 percent from the floor. He plays a physical game and it will be interesting to see him match physicality with Houston’s Brison Gresham and Justin Gorham.

Key Hilltoppers Stat:

The Hilltoppers have averaged 14.5 turnovers per game and they have to take care of the basketball vs. a Houston defense that forces 15.3 turnovers per game. The ball pressure has allowed the Cougars to accrue 171 steals as four players have 20 or more.

X-Factor:

This should be X-factors. Western Kentucky has plenty of options to supplement Bassey with Taveion Hollingsworth (13.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and Josh Anderson as the starting place in the backcourt. Anderson shoots 51.6 percent from the floor and his length and athletic ability will be an interesting matchup with the Dayvion McKnight and Kenny Cooper keying the point, where they both have a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Advantage, Houston

Houston Cougars LogoThe Cougars continue to be potentially the most well rounded team in the nation as they are still rated in the Top 14 in the nation in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com. They lead the nation with a 36.7 defensive field goal percentage and are second in allowing only 57.6 points per game. The Cougs’ offensive rebound percentage leads the nation at 39.8 percent (kenpom), so the glass will be interesting as the Cougs pulled down a (+9.1) turnover margin while WKU is at (+7.1).

Key Cougars Stat:

The depth in Houston’s backcourt will be an interesting matchup for the Hilltoppers as Quentin Grimes (16.9 ppg) and Marcus Sasser (14.5 ppg) are the offensive leader as they also sport 52 mades threes each. Senior DeJon Jarreau and freshman Tramon Mark have been consistent as Jarreau is a 6-5 point guard with length who has passed out 81 assists while Mark gets to the line and converts. He is second in free throw attempts (66) to Grimes (80) and makes 77.3 percent of his free throw attempts.

X-Factor:

The Cougars wants to accentuate their tempo (304th/NCAA) and possession length of 18.9 seconds (323rd/NCAA) which feeds into the physicality with which the play on both ends of the floor. WKU may look to run which will minimize the Cougs’ physical nature.

Winner: Houston 73, Western Kentucky (+11) 64

The Bets
Western Kentucky +11
-105
Houston Cougars
-650
OVER 136
-110
Sub Categories:
Kenneth Cross / Author

Kenneth Cross is a new entry to The Sports Geek staff as he has 25 years of experience in print, broadcast, and internet sports journalism. Cross is a lover of all sports, but college basketball is his passion. He estimates that he has seen around 1,500 college basketball games - live and in-person - and hopes that grows this season. If you listen to Radio, you have likely heard him on Sundays covering the Carolina Panthers for some 20 years. Now in Tampa Bay, he works as a national radio correspondent.