Western Kentucky has an opportunity to break into the nation's Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade.

Louisville has a chance to be the No. 1-ranked team in America.

These are just two things on the line when the unranked Hilltoppers (6-1) challenge the No. 2 Cardinals (6-0) at 4 p.m. on Black Friday at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.

"They're one of the best teams in the country, for sure," WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "They're ranked No. 2 for a reason.

"They score the ball as well as any team in the country. All five starters can score and they bring two guys off the bench who can score -- we've got our work cut out for us."

Both teams were challenged in their most recent games.

Louisville led visiting Akron by 22 points in the second half before having to fend off the upset-minded Zips 82-76 on Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center, while Western had to hold on late for a 69-64 conquest of late-charging Fordham on Monday at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Cards are in position to take over the top spot in the polls following top-ranked Duke's shocking 85-83 home loss to Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday, but U of L head coach Chris Mack was having none of that in his Wednesday press gathering.

"I've got bigger things to worry about than that," Mack said. "Western Kentucky is a really talented team. (Charles) Bassey is an NBA player, a big guy who is skilled, has a great touch, gets to the foul line a lot and converts when he gets there.

"They've got other guys who can really shot it from deep, and that can open up things inside for Bassey. (Taveion) Hollingsworth is a veteran guard who has been around a long time.

"They'll take a lot of pride in this game, as will we -- hopefully, our players have our undivided attention as we prepare for a really good basketball team."

Bassey, a 6-foot-11 sophomore All-American candidate, leads WKU in scoring (15.7 ppg), rebounding (9.7 rpg) and blocks (11), but all five Hilltopper starters are scoring in double figures -- including Camron Justice (14 ppg), Carson Williams (13.6 ppg), Hollingsworth (11.6) and Jared Savage (10.7 ppg).

Louisville is led by 6-7 junior All-American swingman Jordan Nwora, who averages 21.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Three other Cards -- Ryan McMahon (12.3 ppg), Steven Enoch (11.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Dwayne Sutton (10.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg) -- score in double digits.

Both teams are looking to improve their play signficantly in this matchup.

"We had way too many self-inflicted turnovers," Stansbury said of the Fordham game. "We have to learn from our mistakes and now limit our mistakes if we expect to compete with one of the best teams in the nation."

Mack felt similarly about his team's most recent outing.

"Our offense was deplorable against Akron, particularly in the second half," Mack said. "When we get up, we get away from what we do in practice -- from that standpoint, we still have a lot of maturing to do."

WKU and Louisville are meeting for the first time since Dec. 19, 2015 when the Cardinals posted a 78-56 victory in Louisville.

The Hilltoppers' most recent win in the series that began in 1926 came on Nov. 30, 2008, when WKU upset then-No. 3 Louisville 68-54 at the Sommet Center (now Bridgestone Arena) in Nashville.

U of L has won the last seven games against Western to take the all-time series lead, 50-49.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.