Hilltopper Basketball head coach Ray Harper announced Tuesday the program’s non-conference schedule for the 2015-16 season, featuring nine home games to go along with nine previously-announced Conference USA home contests.
WKU hosts regional rivals Eastern Kentucky and Indiana State, as well as Stony Brook, Alabama A&M, Detroit, Brescia (Ky.) and Campbellsville (Ky.) in regular-season contests. The Hilltoppers hit the road to face Belmont, Xavier and Louisville, all of which are within 225 miles of Bowling Green, and will play three games in the 2015 Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla., the week of Thanksgiving.
“We feel like this is a very good, challenging schedule,” Harper said. “Being able to add a series with a long-time rival like Eastern Kentucky is exciting, and playing Indiana State is a good regional game that fans will enjoy. We also are hoping to see Hilltopper Nation on the road for games at Belmont, Xavier and Louisville, and we want to continue proximity scheduling moving forward.
“We have a very strong home conference schedule once we hit January, and it is going to be a battle night in and night out in league play. Conference USA has a chance to be really good this year, and this league can make a statement if we rack up some good non-conference wins.”
The regular season begins on Saturday, Nov. 14 against Campbellsville in the first game of the Gulf Coast Showcase. WKU heads to Belmont on Nov. 18 to face the Bruins in the second game of a four-year series between the two schools. Belmont defeated WKU in Bowling Green last season, 64-63.
WKU hosts Stony Brook on Nov. 21 in a return game for the contest WKU played at Stony Brook as part of the 2014 NIT Season Tip-Off last year. The Seawolves knocked off the Hilltoppers, 71-61, a year ago on Long Island.
After returning from three games in the Gulf Coast Showcase Nov. 23-25, including a first-round matchup with Drake, WKU hosts Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 1 in the first game of a four-year home-and-home series between the two Bluegrass State rivals. WKU and Eastern Kentucky have played 154 times in series history, dating back to 1914-15. WKU leads the series 111-43, with the 111 wins against the Colonels being the most against any opponent in Hilltopper history, but the two schools have not played since Dec. 8, 2007. The two were Ohio Valley Conference rivals from 1948-82.
The Hilltoppers journey to Cincinnati on Dec. 5 to play Xavier for the first time since 1997. WKU holds a 13-12 advantage in games against Xavier, with the first meeting coming on Jan. 2, 1940.
WKU plays four of the final five games on the non-conference schedule at home, with a trip to Louisville on Dec. 19 sandwiched between home games against Indiana State (Dec. 13), Alabama A&M (Dec. 16), Detroit (Dec. 22) and Brescia (Ky.) (Dec. 28).
WKU opens the 2015-16 schedule with exhibition games against Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) College (Nov. 2) and Kentucky Wesleyan (Nov. 6).
Home games against Middle Tennessee, UAB, LA Tech, Charlotte and Old Dominion highlight the C-USA portion of the 2015-16 schedule, which was previously announced by the league.
In its second year in C-USA, WKU hosts three of the top-four finishers in the league a season ago, plus welcomes longtime rival Middle Tennessee back to Bowling Green for the first time since the 2012-13 season. In all, WKU’s 18 game conference schedule is comprised of home-and-home series with Middle Tennessee, UAB, Marshall, Charlotte and Old Dominion and single games against the other eight teams in the league.
The C-USA Tournament will be held March 8-12 in Birmingham, Ala., and will include all 14 schools.
C-USA’s television partners could still ask for date changes to accommodate broadcast schedules. Game times will be announced at a later date.
WKU went 12-6 in C-USA play in 2014-15, finishing tied for fourth in the conference, and 20-12 overall.