BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University has released its men's basketball schedule for the 2015-16 season. 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,” Hilltopper coach Ray 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.
Last season, WKU went 12-6 in C-USA play, finishing tied for fourth in the conference, and 20-12 overall.
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 ADDS THREE TO BASKETBALL PROGRAM, INCLUDING HANSBROUGH
Kentucky natives Keifer Dalton and Dylan Sanford have been added to the roster for the upcoming 2015-16 season. In addition, Ben Hansbrough was named to the program’s staff as Coordinator of Player Development.
Dalton prepped at Clinton County High School in Albany, Ky., and Sanford played high school basketball at Owensboro High School in Owensboro, Ky. Both will be freshmen walk-ons on the WKU roster this season.
“Keifer and Dylan are high-character people both on and off the court,” WKU coach Ray Harper said. “They both had extremely successful high school careers, and as local kids they understand the history and tradition of WKU Basketball and what it means to put on the uniform every day. I am excited to have them in our program.”
Dalton, a guard, averaged 17.8 points, five assists and three steals per game as a senior at Clinton County in 2014-15, and he finished his career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,158 career points. He is also the school’s career leader in assists (602), steals (362), field goals and free throws, and he grabbed over 500 career rebounds.
Sanford, a guard, was a member of Owensboro’s state championship team as a senior in 2014-15, and he averaged nine points per game and shot 42 percent from three-point range. He scored 21 points in Owensboro’s state championship win.
Hansbrough, a former pro basketball player who was the Big East Player of the Year, will serve as Coordinator of Player Development, helping with academics, film study, among other tasks.
“I am excited to join a winning tradition like the Hilltopper Basketball program,” Hansbrough said. “Coach Harper and his staff are well established in college basketball, and I am really looking forward to this learning experience.”
Said Harper, “Ben has experience playing at a high level both in the NBA and overseas, and those experiences will benefit our current players from a mentoring standpoint. He is young enough to still be able to play but wants to get into coaching at this time, and he could be a star in this business. We are happy he chose to be a Hilltopper.”
Hansbrough played two seasons at Mississippi State in 2006-07 and 2007-08 before transferring and finishing his career at Notre Dame in 2009-10 and 2010-11. At Mississippi State, he averaged 8.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game over 65 career outings. After averaging 12.0 points per game in his first season at Notre Dame, Hansbrough exploded as a fifth-year senior and averaged 18.4 points per game en route to Big East Player of the Year and second-team All-American honors.
For his collegiate career, Hansbrough averaged 12.0 points per game, scored 1,613 career points, made 263 three-pointers while shooting 40.5 percent from distances and played in 134 games. Hansbrough played professionally overseas and for the Indiana Pacers, where he appeared in 28 games in 2013-14 and averaged 7.1 minutes per contest.
Hansbrough is the younger brother of Charlotte Hornets standout Tyler Hansbrough, who played college basketball at North Carolina.