Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Men’s Basketball News: WKU to play WCC powerhouse St. Mary’s in NIT

FRISCO, Texas – WKU Hilltopper Basketball has been selected as one of 16 teams to compete in the 2021 National Invitation Tournament. 
 
WKU (20-7) is slated to face off against Saint Mary’s (14-9) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. CT at the Comerica Center in the first round of the 83rd NIT. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
 
The Hilltoppers are 1-1 all-time against the Gaels. The two teams met as a part of a home-and-home series in 2016 and 2018, where WKU took the latter game in Bowling Green with a 71-68 victory on Dec. 22, 2018.
 
All four rounds of the National Invitation Tournament will be played in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex between the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas, and at the UNT Coliseum in Denton, Texas. 
 
First-round games will be played between March 17-20. The quarterfinals will take place Thursday, March 25. The semifinals and championship games will be played on back-to-back days on March 27 and 28. 
 
The NIT’s 2021 field consists of 16 total teams, a limited field compared to the usual 32 due to safety and health concerns of student-athletes and staff, making the Hilltoppers’ selection to the tournament all that more exclusive.
 
WKU is familiar with the NIT, having made 14 appearances since its inception. Most recently, WKU won three games and advanced to the Final Four in Madison Square Garden in 2018 before falling to Utah in the semifinals. 
 
Head coach Rick Stansbury has coached in the NIT on seven occasions, holding a 6-6 mark in NIT games, including a 3-2 record in first-round games. 
 
Several Hilltoppers have experience in the NIT as seniors Josh Anderson and Taveion Hollingsworth were a part of the Final Four team in 2018. It was in the first-round game against Boston College that Hollingsworth passed Courtney Lee for most points scored by a WKU freshman. In the quarterfinals, he led WKU with 30 points at Oklahoma State as the team advanced to Madison Square Garden. 
 
Redshirt seniors Carson Williams and Kenny Cooper, as well as redshirt junior Luke Frampton, also have NIT experience from their previous institutions. In 2018, Williams and the Northern Kentucky Norse were defeated by Louisville in the first round of the tournament. 
 
In 2019, just prior to transferring to WKU, Cooper was a part of the Lipscomb team that advanced all the way to the championship game against Texas. In the first round, Cooper and Frampton played against one another at Davidson. Frampton nailed five 3-pointers to score 19 points as Cooper helped the Bisons win 89-81. Cooper and Lipscomb went on to beat UNC-Greensboro and NC State on the road – with Cooper hitting the game-winning shot to send them to the Final Four – and Wichita State in The Garden before falling to Texas in the title game. 
 
COURTESY WESTERN KENTUCKY ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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