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November 15, 2013

Preview: East Tennessee State

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After kicking off the season with a tough 66-49 road loss at Wichita State this past Tuesday morning, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are looking to put their first "W" in the column for the 2013-14 season as they begin a three-game homestand on Saturday night with the East Tennessee State Buccaneers.

The Buccos currently set at 0-2 on the season, with close losses at Charlotte (80-75) and at home to Morehead State (71-63). If ETSU has any plans of spoiling the Hilltoppers' home-opener, they will have to rely on three key players that include senior forward Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard, junior guard Rashawn Rembert, and freshman guard A.J. Merriweather.

Gadsden-Gilliard kicked his season off right with a career-high 31 points against Charlotte and he is a load on the post at 6-foot-6, 250-pounds. Rembert is probably the Bucs most consistent scorer, averaging 16 points per game, and is coming off a 21 point effort against Morehead State. ETSU's hustler is Merriweather, who averages 11 points per game and at 6-foot-2, is currently the team's leading rebounder averaging 9 boards per game.

Keys to the game:

- Would the real George Fant please stand up? OK, George Fant didn't have his best offensive effort against Wichita State scoring just two points. That will need to change, not just against ETSU, but throughout the whole season. Fant was sloppy around the basket in Shockerland and will have to play with more poise around the hoop to be a positive offensive contributor on Saturday night.

- Full Court Press to Success: East Tennessee State's assist to turnover stats leave little to be desired, try 22 assists to 33 turnovers on the season. Of those 33 turnovers, opponents have thieved the Bucs 22 times. There is a good chance we'll see the full-court press in full effect for the Hilltoppers in order to take advantage of the turnover prone swashbucklers.

- Rebounds equals Second Chance Points: As I mentioned earlier, a freshman guard leads ETSU in rebounding this season, that's not necessarily a good thing especially when the Buccaneers have been outrebounded 90 to 65 in their two games this season. Bottom line, their bigs are not getting it done on the glass and that's a good thing for Western Kentucky, who outrebounded the Shockers 42-40 on Tuesday morning. That included 20 offensive rebounds for the Hilltoppers.

- Point Guard Play: Walk-on freshman Brandon Price didn't have the amount of success against Wichita State as he had against Campbellsville, but he held his own with 2 points, 3 assists, and just 2 turnovers. Not too shabby on the road in a hostile environment against a nationally ranked team. I'm anxious to see how he responds back at the friendly confines of Diddle Arena.

Prediction: Close game for a half with the Tops slowly pulling away in the second half. 75-66, Western Kentucky.

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