McDonald: Toppers need to get back to fundamentals

WKU Head Coach Ken McDonald looks on from the Toppers’ bench during Saturday night’s away game against the University of Memphis at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., December 4, 2010. WKU lost 77-61.

Zach Greenwell

Head Coach Ken McDonald said he’s convinced WKU can be anything it wants to be.

Whether that’s the smooth-operating team that cruised past St. Joseph’s with 26 assists or the jilted group that flopped at both Vanderbilt and Memphis, McDonald said the Toppers’ fate lies in their hands.

Now it’s just a matter of who they want to be.

“We continue to beat ourselves,” McDonald said. “Still, fundamental basketball — in terms of taking care of the ball — keeps rearing its head, and until we get it corrected, people are going to keep turning the heat up.”

WKU (4-5) was more the reckless Mr. Hyde than the composed Dr. Jekyll at Bowling Green State Wednesday, as the Toppers squeaked by the Falcons, 59-52.

The win broke a four-game losing streak, but the Toppers committed a season-high 29 turnovers.

“We dodged a bullet, no question about it,” McDonald said. “I thought we defended hard … but there were too many breakdowns on the offensive end. Our offense is really hurting us right now.”

WKU shot 44.7 percent from the field but had just nine assists against the Falcons. Junior guard Ken Brown had seven turnovers, and senior forward Juan Pattillo had six.

“We’re trying to make the big play right now, and we just need to make the easy play and the easy pass,” sophomore guard Caden Dickerson said. “That would take the load off the point guard and move the ball around.”

Sophomore guard Jamal Crook said before the BGSU game that making simpler plays has been a focus of practice lately.

“Coach talks all the time about limiting our dribbles and making one move instead of making three or four moves to get past a guy,” he said. “That kind of helped us out, with dribbling and stopping and not doing all the dribbles through the legs and stuff like that.”

McDonald said Wednesday night that Pattillo is a good passer but doesn’t understand “when to give the ball up right now.”

Senior forward Sergio Kerusch, who didn’t start and played just six minutes, was also criticized. McDonald said Kerusch’s limited playing time was because of a lack of focus in practice, and he told Big Red Radio that he was “kind of hell-bent” on not putting Kerusch in the game.

But Kerusch and Pattillo weren’t the only Toppers to draw the coach’s ire.

McDonald said he’s still seeing careless mistakes from the entire team, and that WKU will lose at home to Southern Illinois on Saturday if it plays the same way.

“It’s one of those things,” he said. “We almost gave one away tonight because of it, and when you watch tape, I think every player is going to be surprised at just how bad we look when we don’t play fundamental basketball.”

The Salukis are just 5-4 this season, but Dickerson said he expects a solid, defensive team. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Diddle Arena.

McDonald said he also knows that Southern Illinois has a reputation as a scrappy bunch, which makes it even more important that Dr. Jekyll be the one that shows for the Toppers Saturday.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for this team to bounce back after this,” he said. “Even though you’re happy with the win, I don’t really want to see any smiles. I want to see a team that understands we dodged a bullet tonight.”