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February 5, 2011Sign-up for InsideHilltopperSports.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
It was a loose ball even his coach said he had "no business" getting to. It was also a situation where, given the situation, many players wouldn't have put forth quite so much effort.
But with WKU up by 18 points and 7:43 left to play, there was senior forward Sergio Kerusch, coming from the opposite side of the lane, sliding on the floor into the WKU bench to chase down a loose ball. The loose ball, from a missed free throw by senior forward Juan Pattillo, went off a Louisiana-Monroe player before going out of bounds.
The hustle and energy has returned. Two days after blaming a lack of energy in a loss to South Alabama, the Toppers had it return today in bunches, coasting to an 81-61 win over the Warhawks.
"It was an unspoken truth," Kerusch said. "Everybody just knew what had to be done. And we just came in, punched in our time cards and made it happen. We played, in my opinion, some of the best defense that we've ever played all year. We had people diving on the ground, just going after loose balls and we just had a tenacity about us."
Kerusch finished with his seventh double-double in nine games, with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
"Tonight, he was really locked in to what he had to do," coach Ken McDonald said. "I love when he's rebounding the ball. He's got such a knack for rebounding. He had ten and eight at the half. I challenged him to get 20 and 20. I told him that at halftime. I don't know when the last guy in here got 20 and 20. You could see him going after every rebound and it's really impressive."
WKU shot the ball well from the outset, shooting 50.9 percent from the field and going a respectable 22-31 on free throws. The Toppers allowed six three-pointers, but hit five themselves and held a 37-27 rebounding advantage.
Pattillo finished with 17 points, while senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew added 16.
"We just needed a lot of energy because we're athletic enough to stop anybody in this league," junior guard Kahlil McDonald said. "With energy, we shoouldn't have that problem again, hopefully."
Kerusch admits that his personality hasn't always lent itself to the most desirable when times are tough. But tonight, he let his play speak loud enough for him.
"I'm not a serious guy," Kerusch said. "My way to lead for the team is to do what I know how to do, which is put the ball in the hole and rebound the heck out of the ball. When I rebound, it opens opportunities for others because everybody shoots. I've been blessed to know where the ball's gonna bounce. I just grab it and put it back up."
There wasn't a lot not going WKU's way. On the play immediately following, Kerusch's hustle play, he airballed a three-point attempt. The ball was saved by Kahlil McDonald, who threw an awkward pass to sophomore center Teeng Akol, who passed the ball to Pattillo before falling out of bounds. Pattillo finished the play with an up and under move in the lane.
The entire team was displaying the energy that Ken McDonald has wanted to see. But none more exemplified it than Kerusch's save.
"Those are the kinds of plays that you want to represent your program," McDonald said. "When we talk about, what's our identity? You want your fan base to look at that play and say, 'wow, when I come out to see the Hilltoppers, that's what I see, that kind of effort."