WKU basketball: Home opener tonight, 7 p.m.

15 11 2010

By NICK BAUMGARDNER

The Daily News

nbaumgardner@bgdailynews.com/783-3239

After starting the season with a bang Friday, Western Kentucky now really starts getting busy.

The Hilltoppers will follow up last week’s 98-70 road win over St. Joseph’s with their home-opener tonight against Alabama A&M at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The tilt starts a stretch of four games in seven days for WKU.

“The story of our lives as coaches is to get better and not to get complacent,” said WKU coach Ken McDonald, who will take his team to Puerto Rico later this week to play three games in four days at the 2010 Puerto Rico Tip-off Tournament. “We’ve got so much room for improvement. There were a lot of exciting things (Friday), but we’ve got a lot to get better at.”

WKU couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. The Hilltoppers shot 61 percent from the floor, handed out 26 assists, forced 14 turnovers and were 11 of 21 from 3-point range Friday.

Four players scored in double figures, Juan Pattillo earned a double-double and Sergio Kerusch looked unguardable with a 31-point effort.

But the Hilltoppers say that’s all in the past, and it’s time to move forward.

“You have to reset your mind and get geared up again,” Kerusch said. “You can’t live on your past because you’re only as good as your last game.”

The present for the Hilltoppers is a Bulldogs team that also got started off on the right foot over the weekend. Alabama A&M collected a 93-77 win over Talladega College on Saturday.

Junior guard Casey Cantey led the way with 22 points and seven rebounds, while senior forward Bo Amusa added 14 points and six rebounds.

Freshman center Jerome Hunter – a player WKU recruited this past offseason – finished his college debut with nine points and nine rebounds.

Tonight’s game will also be a rare early-season home contest for WKU – which will play six of its next eight away from Diddle Arena.

The team says it’s ready to show the home crowd that Friday wasn’t a fluke.

“I’m excited to get home,” Kerusch said. “I missed one of the exhibition games and I miss the fans.

“I’m excited to get back and hopefully show them that I’m back.”

McDonald agreed, saying that tonight’s game not only serves as a chance to improve, but also to show Hilltopper fans that this season won’t be a rebuilding year.

“You want your guys to stay hungry because we’ve got a lot of big-time games right around the corner,” he said. “It’ll be good (to get home) and hopefully the fans will show up (tonight) with the momentum off a big road win and be excited to see us with the lights on for the first time in Diddle.

“We’ve got a lot of potential. I just want everybody all in.”

Tip-off: 7 p.m. CST today

Place: E.A. Diddle Arena (7,362)

Records: Alabama A&M (1-0) and Western Kentucky (1-0)

Television: HSSN (WKYU-PBS)

Radio: WKLX 100.7-FM

Coaches: Vann Pettaway (441-266 in 24th year, 441-226 overall), Alabama A&M; Ken McDonald (47-22 in third year, 47-22 overall), Western Kentucky.

Probable starters: WESTERN KENTUCKY (1-0)

Steffphon Pettigrew, F, 6-5 sr. (17 ppg, 5 rpg); Sergio Kerusch, F, 6-5 sr. (31 ppg, 9 rpg); Juan Pattillo, F, 6-6 sr. (17 ppg, 12 rpg); Caden Dickerson, G, 6-4 so. (6 ppg, 2 rpg); Ken Brown, G, 5-11 jr. (5 ppg, 7 assists per game).

ALABAMA A&M (1-0)

Casey Cantey, G, 6-5 jr. (22 ppg, 7 rpg), Cornelius Hester, G, 6-3, jr. (9 ppg, 0 rpg), Reggie Porter, G, 5-9, sr. (2 ppg, 6 assists per game), Bo Amusa, F, 6-6, sr. (14 ppg, 6 rpg), Jerome Hunter, C, 6-10, fr. (9 ppg, 9 rpg).

Series record: WKU leads 1-0

Last meeting: WKU won 83-60 on Dec. 21, 2008, in Bowling Green.

Last time out: Alabama A&M beat Talladega College 93-77 on Saturday in Huntsville, Ala.; WKU beat St. Joseph’s 98-70 on Friday in Philadelphia.

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