Hot-shooting Cards too much for WKU in 114-82 loss

Freshman guard Brandon Peters unsuccessfully goes up for a basket against Louisville’s Kyle Kuric and Gorgui Dieng in WKU’s 114-82 loss to the Cardinals.

Zach Greenwell

Even Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino knew there was nothing WKU could do.

The Toppers (5-7) shot 44.4 percent against the No. 25 Cardinals Wednesday night, but Louisville shot 64.6 percent and netted 16 3-pointers on the way to a 114-82 win in Diddle Arena.

“We executed to perfection in all phases of the game,” Pitino said. “It’s really not Western playing poorly. It’s just us being on fire. It was one of those nights where everything goes right for your team.”

The Cardinals (10-1) made 53.3 percent of their 3-pointers, including a barrage of shots late in the first half that broke the game open.

Louisville finished the first half on a 21-6 run that spanned almost five minutes, hitting five shots from behind the arc during the burst.

Louisville sophomore guard Peyton Siva buried a 3-pointer with one second left in the half to push WKU’s deficit to 57-36.

“We had some possessions where we overhelped and gave up some 3s in the corners,” WKU Head Coach Ken McDonald said. “They started going on a little bit of a run, and we responded by going down on the offensive end and thinking that we had to get it back in one quick shot.”

The Toppers cut the lead to 19 with a basket by senior forward Sergio Kerusch two minutes into the second half, but Louisville fired off a 10-0 run to put the game out of reach.

The Cardinals scored 57 points in each half and shot over 60 percent from the field in each frame.

“That confidence they got from the first half rolled into the second half,” McDonald said. “Now they’re coming into the second half kind of thinking they can do whatever they want. The goal got a lot bigger.”

The Cardinals were the first ranked opponent to visit Diddle since No. 9 Xavier came to town on Dec. 6, 1997. WKU lost that game by 33 points, and Wednesday’s game didn’t play out much better in front of the 7,326 people in attendance.

“It’s disappointing losing, period,” junior guard Kahlil McDonald said. “But of course, playing in front of the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of in my life, so losing like that — there’s nothing you can say about that.”

Siva had one of his best games in a Louisville uniform, notching a career-high 29 points and eight assists.

“I thought Siva did a great job just dominating the game,” Ken McDonald said. “He really just dictated how every position went, especially on their offensive end, but he also played pretty hard-nosed defense. I was really impressed with him.”

Four other Cardinals scored in double figures, as junior forward Chris Smith scored 18 points. Senior guard Preston Knowles and sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles each scored 15, and junior guard Kyle Kuric added 10.

Kerusch led WKU with 21 points, while senior forward Juan Pattillo came off the bench for the second straight game and scored 19.

Senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew had 12 points, and Kahlil McDonald chipped in 11 — including three 3-pointers.

The Toppers have extra time now to prepare for the conference portion of their schedule, opening Sun Belt play at Arkansas State on Jan. 1.

Wednesday’s blowout loss wasn’t the way WKU wanted to close out 2010, but Kerusch said the team has to learn from it and move on.

“Once people start hitting, you have to recognize shooters,” he said. “You have to adjust when it’s a game of runs. We adjusted, but we adjusted a little too late.”