Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- A daunting slate that includes 14 home games inside E.A. Diddle Arena and matchups against six NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago awaits Lady Topper Basketball and second-year Head Coach Greg Collins in 2019-20 as announced by the program on Thursday afternoon.
WKU’s first five regular season contests all come against 2019 NCAA Tournament opposition, with three of those dates coming inside the friendly confines of Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers will add one more non-conference home game against Oklahoma in December before welcoming nine C-USA opponents to Bowling Green after the start of the new year.
The Lady Toppers will open the 2019-20 campaign with an exhibition against Kentucky Wesleyan on Halloween night, looking to extend its long winning streak in exhibition tilts. WKU has won 35 consecutive exhibition matchups, including last season’s 104-74 victory over West Virginia State in Collins’ official debut as head coach.
The in-state rivalry against Louisville will be renewed for the fourth time in the last five season in the regular season opener on Nov. 5, with the Lady Toppers making the short trip north to face the Cardinals, who reached the Elite Eight before falling to UConn last season. The two sides also battled in the regular season opener last year, with Louisville taking a 102-80 win inside Diddle Arena. WKU leads the all-time series against the Cardinals by a 25-21 margin.
A trip to Mercer three days later on Nov. 8 awaits WKU. The Bears have won 80 combined games over the last three seasons, including a 30-win campaign during the 2017-18 year; that season, the Lady Toppers and Bears met in the Georgia State Thanksgiving Classic, with WKU dealing Mercer a 67-62 defeat; that loss would be the last time that the Bears would lose before falling in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
WKU will close out its tough season-opening stretch with home games against three more NCAA Tournament teams, welcoming Belmont (Nov. 13), Central Michigan (Nov. 17) and Little Rock (Nov. 24) into Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers split games against the Chippewas and Trojans last season, falling against Central Michigan but knocking off Little Rock on the road. The Belmont matchup will be the first meeting between the two sides since 2015-16, and WKU has won its last eight in the series over the Bruins.
For its Thanksgiving tournament, WKU will trek to the West Coast for the Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic, taking on Tulsa (Nov. 29) and host Saint Mary’s (Nov. 30) in the event. The Lady Toppers have never met either side on the hardwood and will be seeking their first in-season title since the West Palm Invitational in 2017-18.
Oklahoma will make its aforementioned trip to Diddle Arena on Dec. 4, extending WKU’s streak of hosting at least one Power 5 opponent in each of Collins’ seasons on staff (since 2012-13). Three straight road trips will round out the tough non-conference slate as WKU travels to Ball State (Dec. 7), Samford (Dec. 15) and Purdue (Dec. 18) before having more than two weeks off for the holiday break.
WKU will begin its C-USA campaign on the road for just the second time since joining the league, heading to Texas to face North Texas (Jan. 2) and defending league champion Rice (Jan. 4) on the opening weekend. WKU won on the road in Denton last season in a 71-66 win to avenge a home loss to the Mean Green, but fell twice against Rice, including in the C-USA Tournament Semifinals. WKU was the lone C-USA team that Rice did not defeat by double digits in 2018-19, and the Owls will enter conference play with 19 consecutive wins over C-USA foes.
For their first home weekend, the Lady Toppers will host UAB (Jan. 9) and archrival Middle Tennessee (Jan. 11) inside Diddle Arena. The matchup with UAB will be a rematch of the 2017-18 C-USA Tournament title game won by the Lady Toppers, and WKU will be seeking to make it six straight wins over the Blue Raiders on John Oldham Court.
Three straight road games, including WKU’s first trips to Old Dominion (Jan. 16) and Charlotte (Jan. 18) since 2016-17 will be up next, with the Lady Toppers then getting a week off before a trip to Huntington, W. Va., to take on Marshall (Jan. 25). Against those three opponents, WKU posted a perfect 5-0 record in 2018-19 with a pair of wins over both Old Dominion and Marshall.
Visits from Florida Atlantic (Jan. 30) and FIU (Feb. 1) await in the following week of action. WKU holds perfect records against both the Owls and Panthers since joining the league in 2014-15, posting a combined 12-0 record in those matchups. In the combined all-time series against the Florida schools, WKU is 48-11, with no losses since the 2012-13 campaign.
WKU will face a tough road trip to Louisiana Tech (Feb. 6) and Southern Miss (Feb. 8) after splitting its lone game against both in 2018-19. The Lady Toppers have a perfect 6-0 record against the Lady Techsters since joining C-USA but have been dealt three losses by Southern Miss, including last season’s 69-56 loss that snapped WKU’s streak of 22 consecutive home C-USA wins.
In its final three games before beginning the new season-ending format, WKU will welcome UTEP (Feb. 13), UTSA (Feb. 15) and Marshall (Feb. 20) to Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers enjoyed thrilling road matchups against the Miners and Thundering Herd last season, rallying from 12 points down in El Paso for a 64-61 win and then picking up a 69-66 overtime victory over Marshall.
In C-USA’s new schedule format, the Lady Toppers will play on four out of five dates (Feb. 22, Feb. 26, Feb. 29, March 5 and March 7) to end the regular season, with two home games and two away games during that span. No later than December 15, the conference will predetermine the remaining four games with consideration for the most competitive matchups coupled with geographical constraints.
The 2020 C-USA Championships will take place at The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, for the third straight year from March 11-14, with the winner of the tournament earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Finalized game times for the season will be announced at a later date.