Notes: Point guards focal point of correcting turnovers for Toppers

Notes: Point guards focal point of correcting turnovers for Toppers

Zach Greenwell

Head Coach Ken McDonald said the focus of Monday’s practice was on correcting careless turnovers.

McDonald said there was some improvement, but many of the head-scratching miscues were still present. He said Tuesday he hopes the Toppers (3-5) get those turnovers out of their system before their trip to Bowling Green State, where WKU tips at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“It’s the fundamental part we need to take care of,” McDonald said. “We cannot have double-digit turnovers at the half, or we’re going to be down at the half.”

McDonald was referring to WKU’s last two losses at Vanderbilt and Memphis, where the Toppers turned the ball over 16 times in the first half in each game.

“That starts with the point guard play,” he said. “Getting us into offense, taking care of the ball, making sure we’re running when we get opportunities to run, making sure we get into sets and just having that pride where they’re not going to have many five- or six-turnover games.”

WKU has used a point guard-by-committee system through the first eight games, switching between junior Ken Brown and sophomore Jamal Crook.

Both have struggled in the past few games, and McDonald said he hopes it embarrasses them to have to put in plays where forwards bring the ball up the court.

Crook, who McDonald said is still getting back into game shape after a hamstring injury, said Tuesday that he shoulders a lot of the blame for the recent turnover woes.

“I think I have a lot of responsibility toward that because I’m the guy that has to get us into it and bring the ball down and make sure everyone’s set,” Crook said. “I need to get better at a few things, but as the season goes on, I feel that I’ll be mature enough to get better at it.”

Brown has also had both flashes of brilliance and carelessness, turning the ball over six times at Memphis last Saturday.

“He’s got a lot of talent,” McDonald said of Brown. “You’ll see him at certain times doing some really good things, knocking in shots. He’s fearless trying to drive the ball, but he still doesn’t really understand this level and how to run a team. That’s what we’re working on with him.”

BGSU (1-7) appears much less menacing on paper than the gauntlet of South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Memphis that WKU recently ran.

But McDonald said he doesn’t want the Toppers thinking the road test will automatically be a chance for them to get back on track. Because of the way they’ve turned the ball over lately, he said they’ve have to work for that win that rightens the ship.

“They’re scrappy and they’ve been in some games,” McDonald said of BGSU. “Their record probably doesn’t indicate just how close they are to turning their own corner. Their guard set worries me a little bit because they can score a little bit, and … I expect to them to play a lot of zone.

“The biggest message we’re trying to send to our team right now is , ‘Don’t underestimate Bowling Green, and we have to understand this is an important game for us.'”

Drane building confidence

McDonald said after the Memphis game that freshman forward Stephon Drane’s recent efforts in practice led to his first minutes of the year against the Tigers, but he elaborated Tuesday on the rocky road Drane has had so far.

McDonald said Drane had a stellar first couple weeks of the season, but struggled as WKU moved beyond the teaching phase.

He said Drane has since gained that confidence back, which showed as he totaled four points and three rebounds in eight minutes at Memphis.

But one of the things McDonald said he likes best about Drane is that he would be happy playing two minutes and would play them hard.

“He struggled during that time, and it was hard for him to recover,” McDonald said. “In the last two or three weeks though, he’s gotten that confidence back and is figuring out the system a lot more consistently.”

Kahlil McDonald back with team

Ken McDonald said junior guard Kahlil McDonald has rejoined the team for practice and will make the trip to BGSU Wednesday.

Kahlil McDonald was left in Kentucky for the Toppers’ trip to Memphis, a decision that was made after the guard “didn’t handle a situation well.” It was confirmed by the team that he did not violate team rules or serve a suspension.

“He had a good practice yesterday, and he’s going to have to continue to fight for minutes,” Ken McDonald said. “If he plays well and plays hard, we need him, but if he doesn’t understand that we have high expectations for him, then he’s just not going to play that much. But he’s back on track as of yesterday.”