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February 6, 2010

Kerusch Provides Spark In WKU Romp

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He's always been a favorite of the fans, particularly the student section.

So after playing in his first home game since breaking his foot the day before WKU's loss at Louisville in December, junior forward Sergio Kerusch decided to get a little more personable with his fans.

First, he sat on the press table in front of the student section, posing for photos from photographers with the fans cheering in the background. Then, he put on a homemade, felt cape from a student with "WKU Superheroes" on the back, before signing a WKU towel that was handed to him.

'Serge' is back. So too was a Toppers team that played arguably their best game all season in an 87-69 win over Troy.

"For me personally, it's still a little shaky because my foot's not just all the way," Kerusch said. "I'm still kinda favoring it a little bit. But just to be back out there with the guys, that camaraderie, it just makes you feel right back at home.

"I'm healed, it's just more of a mental thing. I've just gotta stop thinking about it and it'll be ok."

WKU shot 48.3 percent for the game, but hit a season-high 12 three-pointers. The Toppers also built as much as a 25-point lead in the second half and never trailed.

"We have not been finishing games with leads," coach Ken McDonald said. "I think in all three on-point losses, we had a four to six point lead late in the game and not finished it out right. We talked about that in the huddle. We still wanna stay aggressive. We could still get a little bit better with the decision making, but tonight we didn't beat ourselves at those times."

Junior forward Steffphon Pettigrew led four players in double-figures with 25 points, while senior guard A.J. Slaughter added 17 points.

For Pettigrew and the rest of the team, it was about getting rid of the losing feeling that has plagued WKU of late. The Toppers had lost six of seven before tonight.

"I guess we were just tired of losing," Pettigrew said. "We've been getting at each other in practice and playing good defense, moving the ball and it showed tonight. I think that was by far our best effort out there tonight, a complete 40 minutes."

There was also a sense of togetherness and playing loose, having fun that's been shown in spurts but never accompanied by such a dominant performance on the floor.

"I do notice it a little more," Slaughter said. "I think we harped on it a little bit and guys are starting to buy into it and embrace each other as teammates, start to cheer for each other and just be happy for the team, instead of just individuals."

Much of the marked improvement tonight was due to Kerusch. He played just 23 minutes as McDonald tries to get him back into game-shape, but Kerusch finished with 15 points, four rebounds and hustle plays rarely seen in his absence. He also brought back a renewed sense of confidence.

"We're still champions from last year," he said. "We're just gonna go for it and fight every game and take it one game at a time. We still believe in us and we're just gonna continue to bond together as a family and go out and do what we do."




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