Notes: Akol debuts; Murray series still unsure for next season

Sophomore center Teng Akol (center) made his WKU debut on Saturday after transferring from Oklahoma State last winter. Akol notched his only point of the game on a free throw in the first half.

Zach Greenwell

MURRAY — WKU got its first look at sophomore center Teeng Akol Saturday night, as the 6-foot-11-inch transfer from Oklahoma State made his debut and played eight minutes.

Akol became eligible for Saturday’s 69-60 loss to Murray State after finals for the fall semester were completed Friday.

“It’ll be a process getting him to the speed of the game and the players playing with him and when to get him the ball,” Head Coach Ken McDonald said. “We missed an opportunity to get him the ball to score a couple times. If he’s in the game, it’s because we want a boost on the offensive end.”

Akol made one free throw and blocked one shot, turning the ball over two times.

McDonald said the minutes were simply meant to get Akol’s feet wet, and he thought that mission was accomplished.

“Defensively, in our zone, he clogged the middle up pretty good,” McDonald said. “Guys aren’t used to coming over and seeing a guy that big sitting in the middle, so he did a good job.”

Pattillo comes off the bench

There was much speculation as to whether or not senior forward Juan Pattillo would even play against the Racers after missing practice earlier this week because of what McDonald called “personal issues.”

Pattillo did eventually play Saturday night, although he came off the bench for the first time this season.

He played 21 minutes, totaling 11 points and eight rebounds.

“He’s doing OK,” McDonald said. “He came in and affected the game. He had some breakdowns late that he has to get better at, and he also made some plays late that allowed us to be in the game.”

Although Pattillo accounted for 11 of WKU’s 16 bench points, McDonald said he was generally pleased with the Toppers’ balance.

“Everyone coming off the bench had an impact in the game and did some good things, and you have to in this environment and against this team to put yourself in a position to win,” he said. “That’s the thing I’m happy with.”

Both sides talk future of series

The back-and-forth continued after Saturday’s game about the potential elimination of the long-standing series between WKU and Murray.

Saturday marked the 148th meeting between the two teams since 1932, but both programs have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Asked whether or not he was interested in continuing the rivalry, McDonald reemphasized his comments from earlier in the week that WKU is still looking at several options for home games next season.

“We’re going to continue to look at our schedule and be aggressive,” he said. “This is a good series. Obviously this is one that goes back a long ways, and it’s a quality opponent. There’s not a reason I wouldn’t, but there are other options out there. I think there was a lot of attention this week on this series being ended from our end, and that’s not the way it is right now.

“We’re just not as far ahead on our schedule as Murray is.”

Saturday’s game drew 5,667 fans to CFSB Arena, which pleased Murray Head Coach Billy Kennedy and his players.

Kennedy said he’s hopeful that the rivalry will continue for years to come, but he’s understanding if WKU has the chance to land a premier home-and-home series.

“The needs of both programs are a little bit different,” Kennedy said. “For us, we would love it. I think it’s a great series to keep going. We need the games, but I understand if Western has opportunities to play Xavier or some other people. We’d love those opportunities too. Hopefully it’ll keep going, but I know everybody’s got to do what’s best for them.”