UTSA will face a 7-foot-5, shot-blocking force today

UTSA coach Steve Henson issued a warning to fans who may have noticed that the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers lost five in a row in January.

Henson said the Hilltoppers have returned to their winning ways.

“They’ve been terrific (in) their last three,” he said.

Coming off three straight victories, including two on the road last week, the Hilltoppers will tip off against the Roadrunners today at 3 p.m. at the UTSA Convocation Center.

UTSA is expected to be without guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, its leading scorer who has an ankle injury and has not practiced this week.

Western Kentucky, anchored by 7-foot-5 center Jamarion Sharp, won on the road at Charlotte and Old Dominion last week and then knocked off the FAU Owls 76-69 Thursday night at home in Bowling Green.

“Their first five minutes of offense against Charlotte was as good as I’ve ever seen ’em, and this is our sixth year here,” Henson said. “I’ve never seen ’em have a stretch where they looked as precise as those possessions early.”

Henson said the Hilltoppers are mixing defensive schemes and playing with a shortened rotation.

“The ones playing all know their roles really well,” he said. “They’re hot, and they’re playing great basketball right now.”

Western Kentucky’s success on defense, and lately its offense, to a lesser degree, revolves around Sharp.

Sharp is 7-5 and 235 pounds and leads the nation in blocked shots, averaging 4.5 a game. He also averages 8.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. Sharp doesn’t shoot the ball much, but when he does, he makes most of them.

In fact, the native of Hopkinsville, Ky., shoots 73.4 percent from the field. He is 13 for 13 from the field in his last three games, including 7 for 7 in the victory over FAU two nights ago.

“He’s terrific,” Henson said. “He impacts the game on both ends of the floor. Just such a threat with his rolling at the rim. (They) throw it anywhere near the basket and he can go get it. He’s shooting 80 percent from the field because they’re all dunks.

“He moves pretty well, defensively, blocking a ton of shots. It’s not surprising with that length. But he’s not just standing and waiting … He moves around, gets after ball screens. He’s a good player.”

Records

UTSA 8-17, 1-11
Western Kentucky 13-11, 5-6

Coming up

Feb. 17 — UTSA at Southern Miss
Feb. 19 — UTSA at Louisiana Tech

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