February 10, 2011

Cold Shooting Spells Doom For WKU

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It's a play where if executed, can do a myriad of things. It can get the crowd revved up, the team revved up and provide a needed shot of confidence.

With 5:27 left and WKU desperately trying to get itself back in the game, sophomore point guard Jamal Crook threw a lob pass from behind the three-point line to senior forward Juan Pattillo, cutting to the basket. A usual electric finisher, Pattillo caught the ball but slammed the ball on the side of the rim, the ball popping up in the air.

It was a play that summed up the night for the Toppers. Even when it attempted to get the big plays that it usually gets, WKU couldn't, going cold shooting the ball and falling to Middle Tennessee 69-60.

"It started with us," Senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew said. "We didn't have no energy at all. We had it in the first half. At the start of the second half, we just didn't show any energy. We put ourselves in a hole at the beginning of the second half."

WKU had a warm stretch late in the first half, getting a 27-20 lead on a 10-0 run. But the Toppers scored just two points over the first eight-plus minutes.

"When things are going good, we stick our chest out and we act the part," coach Ken McDonald said. "When things are not going good, we have a tendency to put our heads down and have the wrong mentality. That has to change."

Statistically, WKU outrebounded the Blue Raiders 46-33 and took five more shots. But the Toppers turned the ball over 23 times, while MTSU also hit 24-30 free throws. More telling, WKU shot just 32.7 percent from the floor.

"If shots aren't falling, some people just start shooting some shots," Pettigrew said. "It snowballs once some shots aren't falling. We missed some open shots. Those are the shots that we usually hit and we've just gotta learn from this."

Pettigrew led WKU in scoring with 18 points. Pattillo had just seven points, but did have 13 rebounds.

Dating back to last year when they swept the regular season series, the Blue Raiders have now won three games in a row in the series for the first time since 1930.

"It does (mean something) just because we have so much respect for Western's program," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "I've been up here a lot and had some long trips back to Murfreesboro, so it's been the other way too. Western has gotten the best of Middle for a lot of years. But you know, sometimes things go on runs and we're fortunate but we have played well in those three games. The game means to me personally, to our team and the rivalry, it means a lot to our fans."

McDonald said he's not anywhere close to crisis mode, but that he expects some level of desperation from his players. The Toppers have a quick turnaround to host North Texas on Saturday at 3 pm CT in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.

"I would hope we're there," McDonald said. "I know we're talking about it. But it's hard to gauge exactly where the guys' mindset is. I think we say the right things. The guys say the right things, but I expect us to go out and do it. As long as we have games left, I'm still gonna believe in the guys and what we're doing and that we can make a run."





 

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