MOBILE, Ala. — For the first time in 40 days, Western Kentucky left a basketball court with a collective smile on its face.
And even though it might’ve been a little too close for comfort, Ken McDonald and company weren’t doing any complaining.
The Hilltoppers built a 24-point second-half lead before holding on late to grab an 84-75 win Thursday at South Alabama.
“The guys are working really hard to change things, and I’m just happy and proud that they were able to stay positive and try to make a difference every day,” said McDonald, whose team won for the first time since Dec. 11. “A lot of times we’ve had guys working hard and the result’s not showing it. But tonight we got that positive result, and with that, we can finally start to build some confidence and that’s what you’re excited about.”
The victory is not only WKU’s first Sun Belt win of the season, but it also snapped its six-game losing streak in the process – the first six-game slide a Hilltopper team has had since the 1997-98 season.
“It was good to finish a game,” said senior forward Sergio Kerusch, who finished with a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds. “We dominated the first half, and were able to close out. Hopefully it’s the spark we need to continue and get rolling for the rest of the season.
“It was good to see the team buckle down and just say ‘we’re not losing any more.’ We took a stand.”
MORE McDonald comments:
“I definitely sense that they’re coming together, you’ve got to keep building on that. You want to be playing your best basketball over this next month. After the Troy game at Troy, as a staff, we could sense that the foot was coming down with the guys. But this is one win. We haven’t stop working, though, and it’s one way to get a little confidence and momentum to hopefully a streak that we’re going to start.”
“There’s definitely a sense that guys are playing their roles right. The biggest jump is being able to manage a game and not take bad shots, be accountable for each other and pull for each other. … Everybody’s bringing it and pulling for each other and in the first half, they were talking as much as I’ve ever heard them. And that’s a good sign.”
MORE Kerusch comments
“We’re just playing and doing it for each other first and worrying about anything with the fans or whatever after that. We have too much talent to be playing bad. We just want to keep fighting for ourselves and playing for pride.
“It’s a proud thing to call yourself a Hilltopper. And we’re proud to be them and we want to keep going forward with our own style.”
“Personalities are starting to mesh and we’re becoming a family. We don’t care who scores or how we do it, as long as we have more when the final horn goes off.”
For more, see Friday’s Daily News