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February 9, 2010

WKU Falls In Dramatic Fashion 74-72

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There might have been only one person in Diddle Arena who saw it.

Up by two with .6 seconds left in the game, Houston junior guard Adam Brown missed the front end of a one and one free throw. WKU guard A.J. Slaughter went for the rebound and at best would've gotten off a last section desperation heave of a shot going the other way.

But Brown went for the miss too and the players collided. Referee Bill Kennedy, a longtime NBA referee, initially made the signal for a foul on Brown, then almost instantaneously, made the call for a timeout on WKU.

With the reversal of fortune, all the Toppers could do was muster a cross-court heave by junior forward Steffphon Pettigrew. The ball was knocked away and the visiting Cougars somehow came out with a 74-72 win.

"I'm not sure, I thought a foul was callled and apparently a timeout was called," coach Ken McDonald said. "I didn't call timeout. The timeout was given, but I'm just not sure what happened until I see the tape."

But McDonald wasn't the only one who was baffled.

"I have no idea," Houston coach Tom Penders said. "The only thing I'll tell ya was the the three officials who worked the game tonight, when I walked out and saw who they were, you've got three guys who are Final Four officials or that level. I didn't bother them all night, so I wasn't even gonna question them. I said, 'What's going on?' He said there's three seconds left and that's all I know."

WKU held a 40-33 lead at halftime, but was outscored 35-24 thereafter. Much of that barrage came from Houston senior guard Aubrey Coleman, who finished with 25 points on 11-22 shooting.

"We let down a little bit," Pettigrew said. "We fought back, but give credit to Houston. They hit some tough shots. They were well contested, but they have some good players that can shoot. I hate that it to end like that, but we have to just go back, look at film and improve on it."

Though the Toppers lost the early momentum and got down by seven with just over eight minutes to play, they still never lost their cool. They retook the lead at 64-63 with just under five minutes to play, before falling in the final seconds.

WKU also held a 43-35 rebounding advantage for the game.

Junior forward Sergio Kerusch continued to make strides since returning Thursday from a broken right foot. He finished with a team-high 19 points in 33 minutes off the bench.

"In a sense, I feel like I still have to get better on defense on my breakdowns and all that stuff," Kerusch said. "Offensively, I feel like I'm getting back into the flow of the game."

Pettigrew added 18 points, while Slaughter had 17 points.

Just before the last called timeout, it looked like the game would be heading to overtime. Coleman had missed a long three with the clock running down, Houston had missed another putback and a foul was called on Kerusch, on Brown.

An irate McDonald drew a technical foul and the Cougars sank both free throws to take the lead and set up the final frenzy.

But in Slaughter's mind, it shouldn't have come to that.

"It's frustrating because we've had a couple of games come down to the same scenario," he said. "But at the same time, you've gotta look at as we had many other opportunities to win the game. It just wasn't that one play that decided the game."

Instead, it was another heartbreaking loss in a season with more than WKU followers are used to.

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