EKU, WKU renew longtime basketball rivalry, but OVC is not along for the ride

·2 min read
Kathleen Batten/AP

Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky are in different conferences and different ends of the state but their rivalry remains.

In a series sometimes off, sometimes on, EKU and WKU have a way of finding each other when it’s time to play basketball.

And that will happen again Saturday, for the 160th time, when the Hilltoppers host the Colonels in Bowling Green.

Saturday’s game marks the teams’ first head-to-head meeting since Nov. 15, 2019, a 79-71 win for Western Kentucky in Richmond.

The Hilltoppers enjoy at 115-44 advantage in a series — known as the Battle of the Bluegrass — that dates to the 1914-15 season.

For years joined by the Ohio Valley Conference, both schools — charter members of that league — have since moved on.

Eastern Kentucky is playing its first season in the ASUN Conference. Western Kentucky has long been a member of Conference USA.

As the Colonels and Hilltoppers prepare to do battle yet again, both teams are off to up-and-down, yet promising, starts to the 2021-22 season.

Eastern Kentucky (5-3) has beaten Georgetown College, Ohio Valley, Milwaukee, Albany and Eastern Illinois but is still looking for its first signature victory. The Colonels nearly had one at West Virginia on Nov. 26, pushing the Mountaineers to the limit before falling 80-77. EKU has also lost to James Madison and Radford.

Jannson Williams (13.6 points per game), Michael Moreno (13.0) and Braxton Beverly (10.3) lead a balanced Colonels scoring attack.

Western Kentucky (4-3) beat Alabama State in its season opener, lost consecutive games to Minnesota, South Carolina and Memphis but has since bounced back to win its last three against Alabama A&M, Tennessee Martin and Rhodes.

Maryland transfer Jairus Hamilton leads the Hilltoppers in scoring at 17.6 points per game. Dayvion McKnight, Kentucky’s 2020 Mr. Basketball from Collins High School, is also in double figures at 13.9, as are graduate student Camron Justice (11.6) and Luke Frampton (10.0). EKU will also have to contend with 7-foot-5 Toppers center Jamarion Sharp, a junior from Hopkinsville who averages 5.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game.

As a team, WKU is seventh in the nation in blocked shots (6.7 per game) and seventh in steals (11.0).

Saturday

Eastern Kentucky at Western Kentucky

When: 7 p.m. EST

Live video broadcast: ESPN Plus (online only)

Radio: WCYO-FM 100.7

Records: Eastern Kentucky 5-3, Western Kentucky 4-3

Series: Western Kentucky leads 115-44.

Last meeting: Western Kentucky won 79-71 on Nov. 15, 2019, in Richmond.

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