Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cards and Toppers to battle in a different Ville

When the Cards travel to Nashville on Sunday to play Western Kentucky, they will not be seeing the same Hilltoppers team that shocked the Tournament world last year. WKU is returning just one starter from last seasons team but first year coach Ken McDonald has done a good job in the rebuilding process.

The Toppers have been led in this early season by a three headed guard rotation, with two of those three being Kentucky boys in A.J. Slaughter (Shelbyville) and Steffphon Pettigrew (Elizabethtown) along with JUCO tranfer Sergio Kerusch (Memphis).

Pettigrew is coming off an impressive 20 point 7 rebound effort in a win over Southern Illinois, 12 of those points coming in the second half. The E-Town product is entering his Sophomore season with much larger role then he was given as a Freshman on a talented WKU team last season (3.8PPG) but has already shown he is prepared for that role. Aside from putting up a career high against SIU, He (Pettigrew) has been averaging 11PPG and 4.8RPG in this young season. Pettigrew, a 6'5 guard/forward that has no fear in banging in the paint with the bigger guys. He has some mid-range game but is at his best in transition or as a garbageman off the glass. He has some range on his shot (8 for 16 on three's) but is only truly a threat when left wide open.

Western's other local flavor, A.J. Slaughter, a Junior entered this season with alot of expectation's then Pettigrew and hasn't disappointed. Leading the Toppers at 12.5PPG despite not playing in WKU's first two games. Slaughter showed the promise that Coach McDonald is hoping for in his Freshman and Sophomore seasons as a key contributor off the bench, improving his game in each season both on the court as well as in the stat book. A.J. is a pure slasher in a point guards body. Standing 6'3, Slaughter can score in multiple ways, with a solid shot from the outside and the ability to create his own shot.

Sergio Kerurch, a transfer from Itawamba Community College (MS) has been a great addition so far to this team. Improving every game so far, including a career high 20 points against SIU, while shooting 48% from the field and leading WKU in rebounding at 6.8 per game. I have not seen Sergio play personally like I have the other two members of their guard rotation but I can say I have been impressed by the numbers as well as what I have read about him so far. I am looking forward to seeing him for the first time on Sunday.

The Hilltoppers have the talent and the personal to give Louisville trouble. Along with the three before mentioned players, WKU is also led by Senior PG Orlando Mendez-Valdez (10ppg and 3.3apg this season), who will be a key component against a Louisville press that I think with the Cards depth this season will be one of Pitino's best. Western has struggled so far this season with turnovers, collecting 46 assists this season, while turning the ball over 56 times (1/1.2 average) through four games. That is something this Toppers team can not do against a Louisville team that has already forced 39 turnovers in 2 games and allowing only 11 assists.

OK....I went to Western and enjoyed it. I like the Toppers and will always root for them against anyone but not the Cards. But whether I cheer for WKU or not it wont matter in this game cause Louisville will roll.

Louisville - 74

Western Kentucky - 58

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