Toppers roll to 2-0 with 83-61 win

Official release from Western Kentucky athletics


BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — A 52-point first half helped WKU earn a 83-61 victory over Alabama A&M in the season's first home game Monday night at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Hilltoppers attempted 50 free throws in the contest as Alabama A&M was whistled for 37 fouls, and WKU moved to 2-0 on the season with the win.

Juan Pattillo recorded his second double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Steffphon Pettigrew had 19 points and six rebounds. Brandon Peters added 11 of his own, and Cliff Dixon was solid with eight points and seven rebounds.

Pattillo became the first Hilltopper to have a 20-point, 10-rebound performance since Sergio Kerusch had 23 and 10 against North Texas on March 9, 2009. With another double-digit scoring performance, Pettigrew has now scored in double-figures in 33 of his last 39 games. The 11-point showing was Peters' first 10-plus point game of his WKU career. WKU has now won seven-straight home openers.

The Bulldogs were paced by Cornelius Hester's 13 points and 10 points apiece from Casey Cantey and Desmond Jackson.

Alabama A&M came out of the gate firing, knocking down two three-pointers in the first 47 seconds of the game. It was a close contest for much of the first half, with WKU having a basket or two advantage for most of the first 10 minutes. A Jackson layup for the Bulldogs tied the game for the third time at 16-16 with 11:49 to go in the first half, but after that it was all WKU.

Pattillo put together a 7-0 run of his own in 57 seconds to put WKU in front by seven, and WKU led by at least that much for the rest of the half. After Kene Anyigbo made a pair of free throws WKU took its largest lead of the half at 21 with 2:09 to play, and the Hilltoppers led 52-32 at the break.

The Hilltoppers shot 51.4 percent in the first 20 minutes and attempted 30 free throws. Pattillo had 17 points and eight rebounds in the first half alone, and Pettigrew added 11. Ken Brown had four assists and three steals in the half as well.

Hester's layup with 18:25 to go in the game got Alabama A&M within 16, the closest it would be for the rest of the contest, and WKU opened up a lead of as much as 28 points while cruising to the 22-point win.

WKU had 46 points in the paint in the game, and the Hilltoppers took advantage of their fast breaks to the tune of 24 points.

The Hilltoppers return to the hardwood Thursday night at 6:30 (CT) when they take on Minnesota in the first round of the 2010 Honda Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, P.R. The game will be broadcast on as well as on the Big Red Radio Network.


WKU head coach Ken McDonald

On the play of the defense:

"I thought the intensity on defense early, especially when Jamal Crook got in the game, I thought he set a really good tone. He came in and got two deflections right away, started our fast break. I thought he did a really good job energizing the team. I thought everyone fed off it and got aggressive. [Brandon] Peters starting getting to the passing lanes, all of a sudden Juan is up there, Pett [Steffphon Pettigrew] is up there, and we can do that at times with different lineups and really be aggressive. I was happy with the spark."

On the team's athleticism:

"I think that is the right terminology, because when we are really good with our athleticism you can see how explosive it can be. But we can also take too many chances with our athleticism, thinking that we are going to be able to go and get steals, and that is when you see us a little sloppy. You will see someone go for a steal and then all of a sudden, it's a five-on-four situation, or you will see us get into the lane and be sloppy with the ball and think we are going to throw an alley-oop. Teams play and stay in plays and as we get better and as we mature as a team we will hopefully get that completely under control, just as a team - how to use our athleticism."

On the upcoming trip to Puerto Rico:

"I think it is great. The first two games have played out in our favor where they weren't close toward the end. I think the next three are going to be high execution type games. You have to understand that they are going to be one, two, three possession games and we are going to have to execute each possession we have and we can't afford to throw the ball away 16, 18 times. We've had some careless turnovers we have to cut down. We can't beat ourselves. We've got to understand that we still have to get the rebounding under control. Tonight we won the rebounding battle, but I feel like we should have a bigger margin and teams like this are going to make you pay for that. They are really going to exploit some of your weaknesses, and we want to stay away from that. So a high level of focus and preparation and understanding these next three games are going to be tight."

Senior forward Juan Pattillo

On the game as a whole:

"I think we got a couple good defensive stops that led to transition. One of them might have been that dunk I had and-one, so I think that might have been the turning point for us. We feed off each other a lot on this team, so whoever it is making the spectacular play or whatever it may be, we just run with that."

On playing alongside Steffphon Pettigrew:

"I think it all started in practice. We've been practicing on the red squad since the beginning now, so I think we've been feeding off each other, building a relationship. We know where the other is going to be at a certain time, and we look for each other in the post. As long as we grind it out inside, it opens up the outside shots and just makes everything easier."

Senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew

On this team's style of play:

"I enjoy it personally. In practice we have been focusing on just pounding the ball inside because Coach says once we do a lot of damage inside, then it is going to open up on the outside. Mainly everything has been open up on defense. We have been getting a lot of steals and dunks and as you saw tonight, we had all those dunks tonight. I think that helps it out and opens up our offense a lot."

On playing alongside Juan Pattillo:

"I like playing with Juan a lot. Just playing these last two games, we kind of read each other, getting a good feel like I had with Jeremy [Evans]. I'm getting a really good feel with him and knowing where he is going to be at on the court. Just keep posting."