Men’s Basketball Notes: Crook becoming a scorer

Junior guard Jamal Crook walks teammate senior guard Kahlil McDonald (right) off the court during the basketball game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Diddle Arena on Thursday. Louisiana-Lafayette won the game in overtime with a final score of 72-70 despite ULL playing the final possession with six players on the court.

Cole Claybourn

Junior guard Jamal Crook has never been known as much of a scorer. The Louisville native averaged 2.2 points his freshman year and and 3.6 his sophomore year.

Earlier this season he made his first career three-point shot.

Now Crook has emerged as one of the Toppers’ leading scorers with an 8.2 per game average. 

His latest outburst was an 18-point performance Thursday in a 72-70 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette — just two points shy of his career-high of 20, which he set against Murray State earier this season.

Crook said his approach has been simple — take what the defense gives him.

“A lot of guys…they’re playing off me,” he said. “I’ve been working with my coaches and teammates and just driving. They’ve been helping me out a lot in practice. They try to do some of the things that the other opponents would try to do me and I try and counter from that.”

Crook had a chance to win the game for WKU in regulation. He took the inbounds pass with 6.9 seconds left, drove for a layup and drew contact.

No foul was called on the play, depsite Crook saying he thought he got fouled, and the game went into overtime.

McDonald said he felt confident with Crook taking the final shot with a chance to win the game.

“They contested the shot, so he ended up at a tough angle,” he said. “But you tell me, six seconds to go, (freshman forward) Nigel (Snipes) sets a great screen in transition to get him open and we get a shot at the rim that is contested. But, I mean, I’ll take a rim shot any time to end the game.

“Jamal executed, the whole team executed really well. That last play says a lot.”

Low turnout despite cheap tickets

WKU fans had the ability to purchase tickets to Thursday night’s game for just $1 at local businesses.

The goal was for more fans to show up as WKU’s average attendance hovered just about 3,000 heading into Thursday’s game.

Instead, the Toppers played in front of their smallest home crowd this season of 2,137 fans. The previous low was 2,375 last Saturday against Florida International. 

Head Coach Ken McDonald said he wasn’t bothered by the low turnout.

“We’re focused on the people that came,” he said. “I know we had some fans that watched it on TV and I know that’s the loudest (Diddle) has been at the end of the game. We appreciate the support of the people in the stands and I think it’s a direct correlation of how hard we played.

“I think the people that were at this game will go home and tell other how hard the team played and I think they’ll be back. I think that’s an important part of this whole process.”

McDonald to players: Block out negativity

McDonald acknowledged he and his players aren’t blind to the negativity surrounding the team, presumably the mounting discontent from fans regarding McDonald as the head coach.

But McDonald said the players are instead focused on the things they can control on the court.

“Just lock in to what we’re doing. Just lock in to the guys,” he said. “Got to love on them and help them understand how to deal with this. That’s my job. We can’t control some things, but we can control our effort and getting better and trying to tune out any kind of negativity there is.

“All we can control is how hard we work and how locked in and focused we are and that’s what we’re trying to do.”