NOTEBOOK: Toppers add Denver to road woes

Andrew Robinson

Outside of an overtime win over South Alabama last Thursday, the road hasn’t treated Western nicely.

That trend continued Sunday as the Toppers added Denver to a list of road-game losses that includes Lousiana State, South Carolina and Louisville.

Coach Ken McDonald said the loss stemmed from a slow start defensively.

“On the road, you can’t do that early in the game and we needed to set the tone on the defense end,” McDonald told Western’s Big Red Radio. “They had to have shot 25 layups, and that’s just unacceptable.”

In stark contrast to when Western plays the role as visitor, a loss to Indiana State last November snapped the Toppers’ 15-game home winning streak. Since then Western has won five straight contests in Diddle Arena.

McDonald shortens the bench

Freshman guard Jordan Swing and freshman forward Jameson Tipping were growing used to an increased role in Western’s lineup.

The generosity toward bench players ended against Denver.

Senior guard Anthony Sally again and junior forward Cliff Dixon came off the bench to assist the Toppers in the first half, but outside of junior forward Nemanja Milosevic’s one minute and Tipping’s two minutes played, that was it.

Freshman guard Jamal Crook started over Sally again and freshman Caden Dickerson logged 24 minutes—the only underclassmen that played a significant part in Sunday’s game.

McDonald still wasn’t happy with Dickerson’s defensive play against Denver’s Nate Rohnert, but had few other options.

“I’m disappointed that he didn’t adjust,” McDonald said. “He’s usually a much more dependable defender than he was tonight.”

Slaughter again overcomes injury

With the effects of a thumb injury still lingering, senior guard A.J. Slaughter tallied 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting on Sunday to lead all scorers.

McDonald said Slaughter showed why he’s the leader of the team on the Toppers’ latest road trip, setting an example.

“He had a lot of life, a lot of energy,” McDonald said. “We need everyone to have that kind of energy on the road.”

Slaughter, who played all 40 minutes against Denver and 42 of 45 in the South Alabama game last Thursday, scored as many points as he has since Western opened the season against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Worth mentioning

Senior forward Jeremy Evans scored 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds, narrowly missing his third double-double of the season…Junior forward Steffphon Pettigrew was held scoreless until the 6:09 mark of the second half after scoring 20 points in Denver’s Magness Arena last year…The Pioneers’ win increased their home-game winning streak to 11.