So as you’ve probably seen, WKU is on fire in all aspects of the offense (except maybe free throw shooting). That 17-4 run in a 5:19 span in the middle of the half gave them the cushion they needed. But remember that this is Illinois, and as they showed in spurts in the first half, if they can successfully slow the pace to a grinding hault, they can lull WKU into submission. There’s still a long way to go, but the Toppers are at full bore and making all the pundits look very smart for picking them to win this one.
Despite all the talk about Illinois’ size, WKU is outrebounding the Fighting Illini 23-15, though that can be credited mostly to Illinois’ 1-for-9 shooting from three point range. Their deep clangers have forced long rebounds that the WKU guards have retrieved while Illinois’ big men are below the basket. Orlando Mendez-Valdez has five rebounds of his own, and Kerusch has eight.
WKU shot 45.5 percent (15-for-33) in the half, including 5-for-12 (41.7 percent) form three. Illinois shot 38.7 percent (12-for-31).
Jeremy Evans’ block on Demetri McCamey really set the tone for the first half. The block had the look of the one Evans had on Louisville’s Samardo Samuels this season.
Steffphon Pettigrew had seven points in the first eight minutes of the half, reminiscent of his performance in the Sun Belt Conference tournament against South Alabama in the finals, when he had nine early points to help set the pace for WKU. He’s tied for the lead among scorers in this game with seven.
The second half is moments away. Stay tuned postgame for thoughts and reaction, and be sure to go to WKUHerald.com for the postgame coverage.