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January 4, 2010Sign-up for InsideHilltopperSports.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
What you'd consider some of the keys to victory weren't going WKU's way.
Senior guard A.J. Slaughter shot just 2-16 from the field for six points. Senior forward Jeremy Evans fouled out with two points with just over three minutes remaining. The Toppers were also out-rebounded 41-34 and shot just 34.5 percent for the game.
Yet after tailing at halftime, WKU took control in the second half, building as much as a 12-point lead.
The Toppers went without a field goal for the final seven minutes of the game, but somehow found a way to hold on for a 55-52 win over visiting Mississippi State.
"It's just great to know that we can come out and not shoot as well on offense and still come out with a victory over a good Mississippi State team," Slaughter said. "It shows that we put it all on our defense and the defense won the game."
With their shooting off, WKU instead picked up the pressure on defense. The Toppers forced 18 turnovers, including nine steals.
"In a game like this, we said we had to have all the hustle plays," coach Ken McDonald said. "The charges, the deflections, diving on the ball, offensive rebounds, all the plays that we needed to make to give us a fighting chance, we pretty much got."
What offense WKU had came mostly through junior forward Steffphon Pettigrew, who had a team-high 17 points to go with eight rebounds.
"We had good shots, they just wouldn't fall," Pettigrew said. "Every team has their bad shooting nights. The whole team came out there together and we just got this win. Everybody played together, everybody had their backs. In an important game like this, you've got to have everybody's back."
The Bulldogs helped the home team's cause with a horrendous night shooting overall. Mississippi State entered the game leading the country in three-pointers made, but connected on just 4-19 shots tonight.
Even worse, the Bulldogs shot 14-27 on free throws, not taking advantage of 21 fouls by the Toppers.
"It hasn't been a struggle for us, we've made free throws," coach Rick Stansbury said. "We're a 70 percent shooting free throw team. We've shot free throws well. Free throws are something that if you had a peel you could give 'em to make sure they shot it right, you'd give them a peel. That's something that you either do or don't, but you've gotta be tough enough to go up there and do it in a critical situation, in a hostile environment and we didn't do that tonight."
Senior guard Anthony Sally was money at the free throw line, hitting all nine of his attempts. He finished with 11 points and just two turnovers.
"I had to make up for those turnovers I had," Sally said. "I couldn't let my team down like that. I took a contested shot and just knew that if I got a chance to get it back, I was gonna be able to knock 'em down."
Though the Toppers have fallen to a pair of SEC teams in LSU and South Carolina, they've now defeated a pair as well, in Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
"The sky's the limit," Slaughter said. "You have an offensive output like this tonight and still come up with a victory against a good team, it says a lot about your team as a whole."
WKU certainly won't win too many game though, with the keys not in the ignition.
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