BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — With only six players suited up to see action, the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers kicked off the Ken McDonald era with an 89-64 victory over LCC International University in exhibition play on Friday night at E.A. Diddle Arena. Sophomore forward Steffphon Pettigrew led the Toppers with 21 points while junior guard A.J. Slaughter, a Sun Belt Preseason All-Conference Third-Team selection, added 20 points.
"It's obvious that I am very appreciative of the effort, especially since we only had six guys that were ready to play," said McDonald. "I thought Anthony Sally and AJ Slaughter controlled the game. I thought they handled the ball well and we only had two turnovers at the half. For the most part, they made good decisions."
LCC International University is based in Lithuania and has an academic community of over 600 students and staff from 21 countries. They played at Florida State and Mercer the two previous nights.
As a team, WKU grabbed 22 offensive rebounds and won the battle of the boards 52-31 behind double doubles from Sergio Kerusch and Jeremy Evans. Kerusch added 18 points along with 14 boards while Evans recorded 17 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass.
The Hilltoppers used a 17-3 run midway through the opening half to push out to a 28-10 advantage with 11:03 on the clock. Evans ignited the run with back-to-back buckets while Pettigrew contributed five points. Evans finished a perfect 5-of-5 from the field in the first half highlighted by four offensive stick-backs. For the game, the SBC Preseason All-Conference Second-Team honoree connected on 8-of-10 shot attempts.
Capitalizing on second chance opportunities and turnovers, WKU constructed a 48-28 lead at the break thanks to Slaughter's trey from the top of the key at the halftime horn. With LCC International maintaining that halftime deficit, WKU delivered the knock-out blow in the form of a 24-6 run to stake the Toppers to their biggest lead of the game 87-60 on Anthony Sally's lay-up with 2:47 to play. Sally finished with eight points and three assists in 37 minutes.
After Slaughter left the game in the closing minutes with a muscle cramp, D.J. Magley fouled out with 1:21 on the clock, forcing WKU to play the remaining time with just four players. Magley had five points and seven boards in his 31 minutes.
Mohammed Seck paced LCC International with 17 points while St. Paul Latham added 13.
WKU improves to 42-4 all-time in exhibition contests.
The Hilltoppers will host Bellarmine University on Saturday, November 8 at 7:00 PM in their final preseason tune-up at E.A. Diddle Arena. LCC International continues its road swing by playing at TCU on Monday.