On Saturday, Western Kentucky welcomed home its most celebrated team in program history and invited in a national television audience to find out exactly which Hilltopper squad would show up.
Fortunately for all those wearing red, the positive half of WKU’s split-personality basketball team walked through the door.
Juan Pattillo led five players in double figures with 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Hilltoppers bounced back in front of an ESPN2 audience with an 87-76 win over North Texas at E.A. Diddle Arena.
“I’m going to have to ask (WKU athletic director) Ross Bjork about bringing the 1971 team in every game, and ESPN (also),” joke McDonald, whose team spoke with WKU’s 1971 Final Four squad before tipoff Saturday. “There’s no question you keep hoping that as a group we understand the focus we need and that we’re running out of opportunities.
“We’re still in charge of how this thing ends out and every game is vital at this point – home and away.”
McDonald welcomed in members of WKU’s famed ’71 Final Four squad – which was honored at halftime – into the Hilltopper locker room before the game, offering his current roster a chance to hear about team pride from the likes of WKU greats Jim McDaniels and John Oldham and many more.
Following the pep talk, the Hilltoppers went out and did their predecessors proud.
“The energy and effort were there today,” WKU senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew said. “We came out and threw the first punch, and once we did that, we came out after the half and didn’t let down.
“We played both halves in this one.”
For full coverge, see Sunday’s Daily News