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February 18, 2010

Tops Cruise To 99-69 Senior Night Win

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All four of them did it.

In a game that WKU dominated in all but the opening minutes, they left their mark on not only a 99-69 win over South Alabama on senior night, but on their times in a Topper uniform.

With 5:10 left in the game, senior guards A.J. Slaughter and Anthony Sally and forwards Jeremy Evans and Nemanja Milosevic all substituted out of the game to a standing ovation from the crowd. After embracing their teammates who were coming into the game, all four knelt down and kissed the WKU towel at center-court, then did a push-up. But it wasn't all their idea.

"When we went to the bench, (coach Ken McDonald) had all four of us over," Slaughter said. "He came over and said you'd better kiss the floor an do a push-up. So you can say it was Mac's plan."

The Toppers worked the rest of McDonald's plan beautifully in the win. WKU out-rebounded the visiting Jaguars 43-24, gave up five offensive rebounds and came up with eight steals. The Toppers also went 17-20 on free throws, which McDonald was pleased about, but isn't exactly sure what clicked.

"When you're playing well, it seems like that rim is so big," McDonald said. "You're gonna make a lot of shots doing that. I think it's more of a confidence and a swagger, a team thing.

"Tonight, our defense led to good offense and good shots. I've always said this, you take a lot of pressure off your offense if you play good defense and really get after people."

Slaughter had a career-high 31 points and had help as four other Toppers scored in double figures. But WKU was sharp overall, shooting 53.1 percent from the floor, including 14 three-pointers to go along with the sharp-shooting at the free throw line.

"That's something we continue to work on, free throws," Evans said. "We can always get better at 'em, so we wanna keep going and just keep getting better."

Sally has missed a few games over the past few weeks with lingering tendonitis in his right ankle. But in his final home game, he played 19 minutes, coming up with just two points, but six assists, three steals and only two turnovers.

"I feel like I stepped it up defensively more than offensive," Sally said. "I'm still a little questionable, but I feel like my defense, it starts off and it helps everyone else. I'm playing pretty confident."

Sally isn't the only one feeling confident. After going through a tough stretch that included a five-game losing streak, the Toppers have now won three in a row, by an average of just over 20 points.

Though things are looking up with the season winding down, it's not over. WKU finishes the regular season with three straight road games, beginning Saturday at Arkansas State.

"Our confidence is high and we're feeling good going into these three road games," Slaughter said. "I mean, we wanna prove that we can win on the road.

"I'm just happy that the guys are sticking with it through all we've been through. We're gonna have a chance to do something special at the end of the year."

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