KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Oklahoma City University coach Ray Harper takes Western Kentucky to face top-seeded Kansas in the NCAA men's basketball tournament at 8:50 p.m. CST Friday at the Sprint Center.
Western Kentucky, the 16th seed, makes its second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under Harper. The contest will be broadcast on TNT (Cox channel 31 in the Oklahoma City area).
Harper returns to the city where he led OCU to the 2007 and 2008 NAIA Division I championships. Harper's longtime assistant with the Stars and Kentucky Wesleyan, Tommy Wade, also is in the NCAA Tournament as part of Travis Ford's staff at Oklahoma State. OSU meets Oregon at 3:40 p.m. CST Thursday in San Jose, Calif. OSU's game is televised on TNT.
The Hilltoppers (20-15) secured their NCAA Tournament bid by edging Florida International 65-63 for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship on March 11 in Hot Springs, Ark.
Jamal Crook scored Western Kentucky's final six points. Western Kentucky clung to the lead despite Tola Akomolafe sinking a layup that cut FIU's deficit to 49-48 with 8:16 remaining in the game.
Crook, a 6-foot-3 senior from Louisville, Ky., hit a free throw for a 60-54 Western Kentucky cushion with 2:19 left. Crook added a lay-in, then nailed 3-for-4 from the free-throw line in the last 23 seconds to hold off FIU. Crook tied with George Fant for game-high scoring honors with 17 points each. T.J. Price became Sun Belt Conference Tournament most valuable player.
Western Kentucky completed a run of four wins in four days.
"They believe that we can win this game," Harper said on the Tim Brando Show about the NCAA Tournament matchup. "If we didn't believe we could win this game, I wouldn't be going to Kansas City this weekend. There's some other places we can go and do some other things. We feel like we're going to go in there, we're going to compete and we're going to have a game plan in place. Hopefully we stick to it, and hopefully it works. We know how good they are, there's no question about it. At the same time, you've seen crazier things happen. No 16 has ever beaten a one. Why not Friday night? No one had ever won four straight games in four days in back-to-back years, but they have now. Our goal Friday is to shock the world."