One constant over the years, with the University of Louisville going in and out of seven different conferences, has been the presence of Western Kentucky University on the basketball schedule. They’ve met 77 times since the series began in 1926.

If fans should have learned anything over that span, it would be never to take Western Kentucky lightly. Despite the fact Louisville has won 22 of the last 25 games, WKU still owns a 39-38 edge in the series,

Back during the 1955-56 season, one of Peck Hickman’s best teams ever went to Bowling Green with a sparkling 8-0 record. Ed Diddle was coaching Western at the time, waving that red towel of his, and would hand Louisville an ignominious 88-77 defeat. Hickman’s team would lose only two more games that season en route to a National Invitation Tournament championship.

A 68-65 loss to Western in 2000 may have been one of many cumulative factors that sealed Denny Crum’s fate at UofL.  His team lost six of its first nine games that season en route to 12-19 record, UofL’s first losing season in more than 40 years.

Coach Rick Pitino sure isn’t overlooking Western, warning that his team would lose to WKU if they play the way they did against UNC Wilmington. The last time a UofL team took Western lightly was on a lazy Sunday in December 2008 when WKU handed Louisville a 68-54 defeat at Freedom Hall.

This year’s game at Bowling Green is the first game on an opponent’s home court, and WKU will be highly motivated. The Hilltoppers, with a 5-4 won-lost record, have won three of their last four games and may be getting their act together at the right time.

Ray Harper is in his fourth season as head coach, having guided the Hilltoppers to two consecutive winning seasons. He joined WKU after guiding Kentucky Wesleyan College to four NCAA Division II national championships and five national coach of the year awards.

Harper is a blue collar coach, one with a great deal of success, one who knows what this series means to Western Kentucky fans. Diddle Arena will be a hostile environment, and Bowling Green is a place where UofL teams have been humbled more times than any long-time UofL fan would like to admit.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.