WKU overcomes 29 turnovers to hold off Bowling Green State

Brad Stephens

WKU finally broke its four-game losing streak Wednesday night.

But it wasn’t a win that the Toppers will enjoy watching in the film room.

WKU (4-5) defeated Bowling Green State (1-8) by a 59-52 score on the road Wednesday despite committing a season-high 29 turnovers.

It was the third consecutive game in which the Toppers have recorded at least 20 turnovers, something Head Coach Ken McDonald wasn’t happy about.

“When we watch tape I think that each and every player is going to be surprised at just how bad we look when we don’t play fundamental basketball,” McDonald told WKU’s Big Red Radio Network after the game.

BGSU used a full-court 1-2-2 zone to force WKU into 19 second-half turnovers.

Junior point guard Ken Brown had a team-high seven turnovers, and despite recording a double-double, senior forward Juan Patillo gave the ball away six times.

“We have to understand fundamentals like jump stops, pass fakes, not picking up the dribble, things we just have to get better at,” McDonald said. “We’re talking about them. Now we have to go out and execute them.

“(Patillo) isn’t handling the ball well himself,” he added. “He’s a good passer. He really is. He just doesn’t understand when to give the ball up.”

The turnovers almost caused WKU to blow a 17-point second half lead.

Up 28-20 at halftime, the Toppers opened up the second half on a 9-2 run, highlighted by seven points from Brown.

A Scott Thomas three followed by a Danny McElroy steal and layup cut the lead to 39-27 with 13:10 left in the game.

The Falcons eventually whittled the Toppers’ lead to 46-40 until a Caden Dickerson three with 5:58 left stretched the lead back to nine points.

Dickerson was 3 of 6 from long range, compared to 1 of 8 for the rest of the Toppers.

“I’m pretty comfortable right now and they’ve been getting me good shots,” Dickerson said.

BGSU was able to crawl all the way to within two points at 54-52 with 1:51 left, and the Falcons had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.

But Dee Brown missed two shots and senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew was able to get the rebound for WKU.

From there, the Toppers shut out BGSU and hit enough free throws to record a 59-52 victory.

“I think we lose this game if we didn’t have a big early lead,” McDonald said. “We have to understand how to keep a lead.”

Pettigrew and Pattillo led WKU in scoring with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Dickerson also chipped in 11 points along with committing only one turnover, the lowest total among starters.

“Right now we’re trying to make the big play,” Dickerson said. “We just need to focus on easy plays and easy passes to take the load off the point guard.”

On the positive side for the Toppers, WKU out-rebounded the Falcons, 39-32. WKU also attempted 32 free throws, compared to only 13 for BGSU.

Noticeably absent for most of the game was Sergio Kerusch.

The senior forward came into Wednesday’s game averaging 13.4 points per game, but he came off the bench for only six first-half minutes and didn’t play at all in the second half.

“Sergio hasn’t been real good in practice, and his focus hasn’t been there,” McDonald said. “I was kind of hell-bent on not putting him in the game.”

While Kerusch didn’t see much of the court, junior guard Kahlil McDonald did.

Some wondered just how deep McDonald was in his coach’s doghouse after not traveling to Memphis with the team last Saturday.

But McDonald played 16 minutes Wednesday night, contributing a team-high three assists.

Senior forward Cliff Dixon also started, just his second career start.

Bowling Green was led in scoring by Jordan Crawford, who scored 15 points.

Dee Brown added 10 for the Falcons, including a jump shot at the 16:12 mark of the first half that gave his team a 4-2 lead. It was the last lead of the game for BGSU.

Next on the schedule for the Toppers is Southern Illinois (5-4). The teams will play at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Diddle Arena.

McDonald said that for WKU to win, it has to improve on tonight’s performance.

“They play very physical, and I’m sure they’ll pressure because they see the way we’re handling it,” McDonald said. “They’re a blue-collar team, and I’m sure we’ll have our hands full.

“Even though you’re happy with the win, I told the guys that I don’t want to see any smiles. I want to see a team that understands we dodged a bullet tonight.”