Toppers finish third in Sun Belt East, face ULM on first day of tourney

Toppers finish third in Sun Belt East, face ULM on first day of tourney

Zach Greenwell

The road to a Sun Belt Conference championship got a little longer for WKU on Saturday night.

The Toppers’ 57-39 loss at Middle Tennessee in their regular-season finale means they’ll finish third in the Sun Belt’s East division and thus not earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

WKU will play Louisiana-Monroe, the No. 6 seed from the Sun Belt West, at 6:30 p.m. on March 5 in Hot Springs, Ark.

“We’ve got one game. That’s it,” Head Coach Ken McDonald said. “We’re playing Monroe. We’ll obviously focus on the scout, but just like tonight — it’s not what Middle did. It’s what we didn’t do, and that’s what’s important to know in tournament play. We have to go out and make it happen.”

The Toppers beat ULM at home, 81-61, on Feb. 5.

The Warhawks are 2-14 in the Sun Belt and 7-23 overall.

But McDonald said ULM’s record doesn’t mean anything during tournament time, a sentiment senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew echoed.

“We lose and go home, or we win and keep advancing,” Pettigrew said. “We’ve just got to play like its our last and hopefully keep advancing.”

Junior guard Kahlil McDonald said all of WKU’s focus over the past few weeks had been placed on getting the two-seed and building momentum.

Now that they’ll have to dwell on Saturday’s loss for an entire week, Kahlil McDonald said those goals have been replaced by a do-or-die mentality.

“One game — that’s it,” he said. “Either we do our job, or we’re out of here.”