So after a game that should’ve been a blowout from the beginning, coach Ken McDonald gave some remarks that he believes the game went exactly as it should’ve, with the talent that FIU possessed. Golden Panther head coach Sergio Rouco had some compelling thoughts on the state of WKU basketball. Both coaches were hoping to see each other again in the Sun Belt tournament. Now a few more thoughts from the game:
-We start again with the bench. McDonald went to his bench early with the intention of keeping his starters rested against a shallow-but-strong roster of forwards for Florida International. It worked in the first half, forcing the guards to penetrate and take contested long-range shots, but late in the second half, the reserves showed their weaknesses. After only managing three points in the first half, they improved on that by one, scoring four in the second half, losing the bench scoring battle 21-7 to FIU. The other reserves must find a way to contribute, though. Sophomore forward D.J. Magley and senior forwards Japeth Aguilar and Matt Maresca combined for just seven minutes, two points and two rebounds.
-Even though the scoring was dry, a few reserves played valuble minutes. Senior forward Mike Walker contributed what were his best minutes in a month, with a rebound and an assist in 12 minutes, but it was his ability to push FIU forwards Russell Hicks and Freddy Asprilla out of the paint and make them take altered shots that made him valuable. Junior guard Anthony Sally scored six points, pulled down two boards and dished out two assists in 22 minutes in place of senior guard Orlando Mendez-Valdez and junior guard A.J. Slaughter. Despite a down game against Troy, Sally has been coming along with setting up the offense and knowing when to push the tempo. His play off the bench will be key in the grueling three-games-in-three-days format in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
-Something that has to satisfy McDonald is the play of Sergio Kerusch and Steffphon Pettigrew. Though they have been consistent contributors all season, the game was an off night for Mendez-Valdez and Slaughter, who combined to shoot 6-for-22, including 0-for-11 from three, for 18 points. The duo of Pettigrew and Kerusch combined for 15-for-28 shooting for 43 points and also combined for 20 of Western’s 42 rebounds. It has to make McDonald happy to see other players are able to step up, especially in an athlete-dominated league like the Sun Belt, in case the team leaders aren’t having their best games.
-For eight minutes in the first half, junior forward Jeremy Evans left the bench. McDonald said it was for a “bathroom break” but also to clean up his bleeding upper lip. It shouldn’t affect his status for the rest of the season.