Tag Archives: Steffphon Pettigrew

McDonald rides confidence into UofL

Just got in from WKU’s press conference going into the Toppers’ game at Louisville on Saturday. Head coach Ken McDonald had a few interesting points, and players Steffphon Pettigrew and Sergio Kerusch provided insight as well.

The Toppers are seemingly hitting their stride going into this contest and have history on their side. After their 76-69 victory over then-no.24 ranked Vanderbilt on Friday night at the Sommet Center in Nashville and considering last season’s 68-54 win over then-No.3 Louisville (also in the Sommet Center), WKU has the motivation to play the Cardinals, who are on a two-game home losing skid right now going into a game at home against Oral Roberts tonight.

But that is what McDonald believes is just one of the factors in getting the team ready for peak performance:

“It starts with our defense and our rebounding,” he said. “Once again, it takes a lot of pressure off our offense. Every possession, when you get down eight to 10 points, double digits, you start to feel a pressure that you have to take over the game and you have to make shots, and you can lose confidence in a hurry on the offensive end and it snowballs. So I think we’ve done a good job with that, turning that around and understanding that each four minutes, if we take care of the defense and rebounding, we’re going to have a lot more confidence on the offensive end.”

A game like this could also be a trap game for the Toppers going down the road. WKU followed its win over Louisville last season with a 72-40 loss at Evansville two games later. It was the Toppers lowest point total all season and the worst game offensively by far on the year. But McDonald isn’t expecting a drop-off in this type of game.

“If you can’t get excited and be intense going into Louisville, with one of the great venues in the country with an unbelievable environment,” McDonald said. “First of all, we’ve got to go in with an ‘us against the world’ mentality, because we haven’t been in this environment yet. It’ll be louder than we’re used to. We’ve got a chance to do something special with our team and with all that said, continue to build toward our goals of being a good basketball team at the end of the year.”

On the court, these teams couldn’t be going in more different directions. WKU’s win over Vandy, coupled with UofL’s two-game losing streak, could spell a second-straight victory over the Cardinals for the Toppers. A great majority of this team’s nucleus is back from last season’s win — most importantly, senior forward Jeremy Evans and junior forward Steffphon Pettigrew, who were instrumental in shutting down Louisville’s marquee forwards, Samardo Samuels and Earl Clark, in last year’s game. Clark is gone, replaced primarily by sophomore Terrence Jennings, but Samuels still remains. It will be up to those two again to make sure he doesn’t get many touches.

Added motivation comes from the Kentucky kids like Pettigrew, senior guard A.J. Slaughter and freshman guard Jamal Crook, who played in the state but were recruited lightly or not at all by Louisville.

“Every time you play a Kentucky school, you go in there and you play as hard as you can and play the best game you have,” Pettigrew said.

Pettigrew also added that the team will be focusing on the Cardinals’ 2-3 zone that has become, along with the full court press, one of UofL head coach Rick Pitino’s staples as of late. The zone definitely has holes, especially on the perimeter, which can lead to a number of good looks from three-point range if the Cardinals don’t close out. And with the quick trigger on players like Slaughter, Kerusch and freshman guards Caden Dickerson and Jameson Tipping, if the looks fall, it could get interesting.

“I think last year was last year,” Kerusch said. “And I think that (Louisville) can draw more motivation than we can because we won. Their coach can be telling them, ‘We underestimated them last year. We’re not doing that this year.’ It’s a big game, winning against Vanderbilt. We’ve got a great confidence, and I think we found our chemistry.”

On the guard end of the spectrum, Kerusch and Slaughter will be the ones asked to control the tempo. The loss of Orlando Mendez-Valdez shouldn’t factor too much. Mendez-Valdez only scored five points in last year’s game, while Slaughter dropped in a game-high 25. Kerusch will likely be the man counted on in this game to back up Slaughter. Kerusch only scored five points on 1-for-10 shooting last time out against the Cardinals.

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Halftime: WKU 37, Illinois 29

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.

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My First Impressions of Illinois vs. WKU, plus announcer-ology

First off, thanks to WKU alum Kevin Hulsman for the quick angle that Bruce Weber served as an assistant under Gene Keady while Keady was at Western.

I’ve never watched the selection show with a large group of people before, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Folks were quiet, listening to Greg Gumbel unveil the brackets, and the anticipation continued to build until the last bracket was finally unveiled.

My first glance at the assistant coaches and coach Ken McDonald saw that there was quite a bit of confidence in their reaction. Assistant David Boyden gave a nice fist pump, and there were plenty of smiles around. Illinois does come out of the Big Ten, but has flown under the national radar most of the season, finishing 10-6 in the Big Ten and 24-9 overall.

From the sounds of it, Chester Frazier has a hand injury right now, and it will be interesting to follow his status throughout the week. Illinois does have some height, but not much weight in their front court. They come after you with 7’1″, 235-pound center Mike Tisdale and 6’9″, 210-pound Mike Davis. Seems like an even match-up for the likes of Steffphon Pettigrew and Jeremy Evans for Western.

Throughout the week we’ll take a closer look at personnel. Remember, this is first impressions.

Many on the national scene are already picking Western in this game. I can’t imagine Illinois is happy with the matchup. Unfortunately, I missed a conference call with Illinois coach Bruce Weber tonight. I was inquiring with Western SID Brad Fields about one happening tomorrow, and he said that Weber had one on short notice tonight.

I won’t hold it against Weber and the Illinois media relations folks, though.

We’re still awaiting word on a game time for Thursday. However, when we do find out, we’ll let you know here. I can’t think it will be any earlier than 1:30 CST, since the game is on the West Coast.

Now, we all now CBS is a finicky thing. However, because I enjoy this kind of stuff, I’m going to predict where the CBS broadcast teams will be placed. When we find out who is really calling the game, we’ll also have that here.

DAYTON: Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg (Dayton has two #1 seeds, so that’s easy)

PHILLY: Dick Enberg/Jay Bilas (This crew could be swapped with Johnson/Elmore, but I’ll keep em here)

MIAMI: Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery (Two older gentlemen need warm weather this time of year)

GREENSBORO: Gus Johnson/Len Elmore (Get ready for some RISE AND FIRE from North Carolina)

KANSAS CITY: Kevin Harlan/Dan Bonner (KC is home for Harlan, so c’mon, CBS. Save a penny or two)

MINNEAPOLIS: Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel (These last three are anyone’s guess, but I’ll go with this anyway)

BOISE: Craig Bolerjack/Bob Wenzel (Who are these two?)

PORTLAND: Tim Brando/Mike Giminski (Again!)

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Halftime thoughts

  • WKU leads rebounding 18-11, with 10 of those offensive.
  • Pettigrew leads all with 15 points. That’s got to be supplemented by someone else, and Slaughter is the guy to help with 11.
  • Points off TOs: 16-4 WKU. The Toppers have forced nine turnovers.

Second half in a sec.

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First half, 3:28 to go: WKU 29, USA 19

Dominic Tilford, USA’s leading scorer, finally got his first points — a three followed by a tip-in by Coleman. WKU responded with a jumper from Kerusch. This game has settled down, and WKU still holds a 10-point lead. This may be crucial if the game gets tight late — a big start could be the difference.

Pettigrew leads all scorers with 14, and he’s 6-8 from the field. If he keeps this up, he’ll be all-tournament team with the performance he has turned in thus far.

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First half, 11:57 to go: WKU 19, USA 6

USA stopped the bleeding with a bucket at the 15:30 mark from DeAndre Coleman. Another good sign for WKU: D.J. Magley came into the game and right off the bat put back a Pettigrew miss. But Pettigrew isn’t done — he hit a three to give him 12 of WKU’s first 16 points. He’s on fire, going 5-for-6 from the field so far. Mendez-Valdez followed up with a three from the left wing over Tilford off an Evans steal, and Arrow must call a 30-second timeout.

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First half, 15:51 to go: WKU 11, USA 0

Media timeout. Evans called for a foul. Pettigrew is playing flat-out glorious with the last nine points for WKU. He’s hedging off screens well, and the movement and hustle for WKU is top-shelf. In an interesting move, head coach Ken McDonald took out Slaughter for Anthony Sally, possibly for a rest. Slaughter has been on Tilford and hasn’t stopped moving since tip-off, trying to get open for shots.

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