Notes: Brown dismissed from program; Peters fills void at point

Freshman guard Brandon Peters drives the ball to the basket against Southern Illinois. Peters, playing point guard after junior Ken Brown’s dismissal, scored 11 points in 19 minutes as WKU went on to win the game 53-46.

Zach Greenwell

Ken Brown is gone for good from the WKU program, but the Toppers may have unveiled a new point guard Saturday.

WKU’s athletic department issued a statement after WKU’s 53-46 win over Southern Illinois that revealed Brown has been dismissed from the team.

“Men’s Basketball student athlete Ken Brown has admitted to a violation of team academic policy and has been dismissed from the program,” the statement said. “WKU Athletics prides itself on the highest academic standards, and this type of conduct is simply not acceptable.”

The announcement came just one day after Head Coach Ken McDonald said Brown was suspended indefinitely for a “serious” violation of team rules.

“It really is unfortunate, but we have to move forward and continue to understand what an opportunity each student athlete has here at WKU,” McDonald said Saturday. “It’s important to kind of think about that, and we hope good things for him and want him to go on from this and do good things.”

Since sophomore Jamal Crook and freshman walk-on Mike Gabbard were the only point guards left on the roster, McDonald said Friday that some players might have to shift positions.

Crook got the start against SIU, but it was freshman Brandon Peters that made the most of the opportunity.

Peters, who has primarily played shooting guard, ran the point for the majority of his 19 minutes and totaled 11 points and two assists.

“The point’s more freelance, and you can do whatever you want to do,” Peters said. “Plus you can get your teammates involved, and that’s what I like to do. Basically, it’s just a confidence thing.

“If you have confidence in yourself, you can do anything. I have confidence in myself that I could do it.”

Peters’ 11 points tied a career high.

“He put himself out there, and it’s great to see,” McDonald said. “He’s been struggling a little bit. He had a really good first six weeks, and he’s going through that freshman lull a little bit. But tonight and in the last couple days, he’s been better. I thought he answered the bell big time for us tonight.”

It took 11 minutes for Peters to even get in the game, but WKU started to dig itself out of an early hole once he did. He and senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew combined to score all of the Toppers’ points in an 11-2 run late in the first half that brought them back from their biggest deficit of the game.

“After he hit a couple shots, the confidence throughout the team started to pick up,” Pettigrew said. “The fans started picking up their intensity as well. They started clapping for us and put us in the game.”

McDonald said Peters will likely play more at point guard now that Brown is no longer with the team, especially since he’s still not pleased with Crook’s consistency.

“You just want someone that can get you down into an offense, get the ball where it needs to be on the floor and distribute,” he said. “That’s all we asked (Peters) to do tonight — just run the show, take care of the ball and play at his own pace. He did a wonderful job.”

Taming the turnovers

After turning the ball over 29 times — the most for the team since 2000 — against Bowling Green State Wednesday, WKU cut down its mistakes signficantly against SIU.

The Toppers had just 10 turnovers in the game. They averaged 22.5 turnovers per game in the four previous contests.

“In practice, we try to focus on not turning the ball over and just keep moving the ball,” Pettigrew said. “I think if we move the ball and try to get everybody involved, that helps not turning the ball over.”

McDonald was cautious to praise the low turnover number, saying WKU “can’t get too high and can’t get too low.” He also pointed out that the Toppers were out-rebounded by 20.

But McDonald said it’s hard not to be encouraged by the drastic improvement.

“It was big, first of all for our coaching staff’s stress level,” he said. “That’s the first thing. We were just inventing ways to turn it over after being a team that couldn’t handle pressure a little bit early. We seemed to have a bug almost. It was almost contagious, and tonight we shook it.”

Pettigrew breaks through

The rim probably appeared to be continuously shrinking for Pettigrew.

The senior, who McDonald has called one of his best shooters, came into the SIU game having not hit a 3-pointer since WKU’s loss to Davidson on Nov. 21.

He missed his first four shots from behind the arc Saturday but was finally able to bury one with 4:14 left in the game.

“I can’t even remember the last time I hit, but it finally went in, so it’s just a confidence thing,” Pettigrew said, smiling. “I’ve got to keep shooting after practice and before practice and get that confidence back.”

The 3-pointer meant something to all of the Toppers. It turned out to be the game-winning shot, breaking a 38-38 tie for a lead WKU never relinquished.

McDonald said he was ready to give Pettigrew a hug after he snapped the slump.

“I was excited for him,” McDonald said. “He came over during that break and said, ‘It’s about time.’ We laughed about it, and it’s good to see him doing that and having that confidence back. I ran plays for him all day to get the ball and shoot the ball, because I have that much confidence in him.”

Extra notes

Pettigrew’s 15 points Saturday moved him up to 25th on WKU’s all-time scoring list … The Toppers have forced their opponent into at least 16 turnovers in nine straight games … The announced attendance in Diddle was 3,491.