BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University (7-3) shook off a sluggish start by shooting nearly 60 percent in the second half in running away from Alabama A&M (2-5) 83-60 in the Hilltoppers final game before the holidays on Sunday afternoon at E.A. Diddle Arena. It was WKU's 10th-straight non-conference home win.
Alabama A&M scored the first seven points out of the starting blocks, hitting on their first three shots from the field. Orlando Mendez-Valdez got the Toppers on the board three minutes in with a three-pointer from the top of the key, but the Bulldogs stayed hot, connecting on 13 of their first 21 shots for 62 percent.
A pair of free throws by Jeremy Evans with 11:51 left in the opening stanza gave WKU its first lead at 14-12, but over the next nine minutes, the advantage would seesaw back and forth. The first half witnessed six ties and nine lead changes.
Following a fast-break lay-up by Cornelius Hester making it 30-28 in favor of Alabama A&M, WKU closed the final 2:19 of the half on a 9-0 run to claim a 37-30 lead at the break. A three-pointer from Anthony Sally ignited the spurt and Evans contributed four of his 10 first-half points during the run. The 6-9 junior finished with 14 points and three blocks, moving into fifth place all-time in career blocks with 113.
Five-straight points from AJ Slaughter in the opening two minutes of the second half pushed the spread into double figures for the first time as WKU led 42-32 with 18:21 to play. Slaughter drilled 8-of-10 shots from the field including 4-of-5 from long range and 4-of-5 at the stripe for 24 points, just one shy of his career-high set on November 30 in the upset of #3 Louisville. The junior from Shelbyville, Ky. scored 19 in the second half.
Casey Cantey responded with five-straight for the Bulldogs to bring it back to a 42-37 game, but what ensued was the decisive separation of the contest. Over the next 8:24, WKU reeled off a 23-6 run to blow the game open 65-43 on Slaughter's basket with 8:07 to play. Two Slaughter free throws grew the bulge to 30 with 2:39 remaining.
Sergio Kerusch added his third double double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds for WKU, who shot 51.9 percent for the game including 10-of-22 from downtown. The Toppers also owned the glass 40-27.
Cantey led Alabama A&M with 16 points and seven rebounds while John Smith added 14 points, nine boards, and two blocks.
All 11 active players for WKU saw action, with nine players logging at least 15 minutes, and 10 players scratching into the scoring column.
WKU will now break for the holidays before returning to action on Sunday, December 28 against Florida State in the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic at 3:00 PM in Miami, Fla.