It wasn’t without its ups and downs, but Western Kentucky’s trio of seniors walked out of E.A. Diddle Arena for the final time as winners.
Steffphon Pettigrew and Sergio Kerusch both recorded double-doubles and WKU held off Florida International 80-73 Thursday, securing a victory on Senior Night.
“I don’t even want to think about it,” said Kerusch after his final home game. “It’s a hard thing to think about, I was shooting that last free throw and I heard everybody cheering for Pett and I thought ‘man, this is really the end.’
“But you’ve to go out now and make this moment last forever – let’s go finish out, get these wins and get back to the tournament.”
The victory also sets up an important season-finale Saturday at Middle Tennessee – with the victor earning a first-round bye in the Sun Belt Tournament and second place in the Sun Belt East.
“The hard part tonight was playing with a lot of emotion but also playing for that two-seed,” Pettigrew said. “But we pulled it together, went on a run and it helped us out a lot.
“(Saturday) is big – it’s the game for the two-seed. Last time we played them we didn’t play as well as we should. We’ve got to focus on coming out and hitting them in the face over the first four minutes and not let down from there.”
Kerusch finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Pettigrew tallied 20 points and 10 boards. Kahlil McDonald added 15 points, and Jamal Crook handed out a career-high 10 assists.
DeJuan Wright finished with 19 points and seven rebounds to lead FIU.
The game didn’t come without its setbacks, though, as sophomore guard Caden Dickerson left early in the first half with a separated left shoulder – an injury that McDonald says is day-to-day.
“It’s a separated shoulder but it’s not his shooting shoulder,” WKU coach Ken McDonald said. “It came out, it popped back in pretty easily but he’s day-to-day.
“We’ll see how it is, I’m not ruling him out (for Saturday). He’s been banged up a bit, usually he’s having trouble with his right shoulder but it was the left one this time.”