SCOUTING REPORT: Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky is coming off a big win over Southern Illinois. Can the Hilltoppers handle the Louisville's full-court press Sunday afternoon in Nashville? InsideTheVille.com breaks down the matchup.

No. 3 Louisville (2-0) vs. Western Kentucky (2-2)

When: Sunday, Nov. 30 @ 3:00 PM ET
Where: Nashville, TN.
TV: WHAS-11 and Fox College Sports
Radio:84 WHAS

Series: Louisville trails 33-38
Last Meeting: 2003, Louisville 93-63

About Western Kentucky

Ken McDonald is in his first season as the head coach at Western Kentucky after taking over for Darrin Horn, who is now the coach at South Carolina after leading Western Kentucky to the NCAA Sweet 16 last season.

Western Kentucky Last Game has won two of its first four outings, but fell 89-61 at Murray State last Saturday as guard A.J. Slaughter led WKU with 15 points and two steals. The Hilltoppers lost 73-64 at Houston and have beaten Campbellsville 62- 48. Western Kentucky is coming off a win over Southern Illinois on Wednesday.

Western Kentucky is picked to finish third in the East Division of the Sun Belt Conference this season. The Hilltoppers were 29-7 last season, won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, finished No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and reached the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 with victories over Drake (101-99) and San Diego (72-63). Western Kentucky is No. 87 in the early Sagarin Ratings, tops among Sun Belt Conference teams. With the graduation of several keys players off last year's NCAA Sweet 16 team, WKU lost 60.6 percent of its total points, 59.8 percent of its total assists, and 40.5 percent of its total rebounds.<

First-year WKU Coach Ken McDonald (1992) and U of L assistant coach Richard Pitino (2005) are both Providence College graduates.

WKU freshman guard Adam Decker hails from Louisville, and sophomore guard/ forward Steffphon Pettigrew (Elizabethtown) and junior guard A.J. Slaughter (Shelbyville) are from nearby towns.

Probable Starters

G –O. Mendez-Valdez – 6-1, 185 - (10.0 pts.,3.0 reb.)
G –A.J. Slaughter - 6-3, 180 (12.5 pts., 4.0 reb.)
G –Anthony Sally - 6-2, 185 - (7.8 pts., 3.0 reb.)
F –Jeremy Evans - 6-9, 190 - (7.5 pts., 5.8 reb.)
F –Steffphon Pettigrew - 6-5, 225 - (11.0 pts., 4.3 reb.)


A.J. Slaughter

Front and center ...

A.J. Slaughter – Slaughter, a 6-3 junior from Shelby County, Kentucky, missed Western's first two games this season because of his participation in a summer league. Though he leads the Topps in scoring, Slaughter has struggled with his shooting early this season, making just 7 of 20 shots from the floor. Slaughter has the ability to score from the perimeter (3-9 3's) or on slashing moves to the basket. In two games, Slaughter has attempted 15 free throws, second-most on the team.

Scouting the rest of the Eagles starters

Anthony Sally – A transfer from Motlow State C.C., Sally has stepped into the role of playmaker for the Hilltoppers this season. Sally has led Western Kentucky in assists in 3 of 4 games this season. Though he's not a huge scoring threat – Sally is shooting just 32 percent from the floor and 29 percent from 3 – Sally has been to the free throw line a team-leading 18 times. Sally leads the team in both assists (14) and turnovers (15). He'll face a big challenge against Louisville's pressure defense Sunday afternoon.

Jeremy Evans – Evans is long and lean and leads the Topps in blocked shots (5) and is the team's second-leading rebounder. The 2007 Sun Belt Tournament Most Valuable Player, Evans was a key member of Western Kentucky's Sweet 16 squad a year ago, starting 33 of 34 games and leading the team in both rebounding and blocks. Evans was named to the preseason Sun Belt second team.

Steffphon Pettigrew – A former Kentucky Mr. Basketball winner, Pettigrew appeared in all 36 games as a freshman. This season, Pettigrew has stepped into the starting lineup for the Hilltoppers and is coming off a career-best 20 points against Southern Illinois. Pettigrew also scored 11 points against both Houston and Murray State.

Orlando Mendez-Valdez – A key reserve last season, Mendez-Valdez has now moved into the starting lineup. Mendez-Valdez was second on the team in assists and fourth in steals last year as a junior. He also ranked 15th in the Sun Belt Conference in three-point shooting percentage. Mendez-Valdez had 17 points and four assists in Western Kentucky's win over Southern Ill. Wednesday night.

The Bench

Keep an eye on 6-foot-5 junior college transfer Sergio Kerusch. Kerusch led Itawamba C.C. to a 30-4 record as a freshman last year while averaging 18.9 points and 9.0 rebounds. Kerusch has already made a major impact for the ‘Toppers early this season, scoring in double figures in each of the past three games, including a 20-point outing against Southern Illinois.

6-9, 255-pound sophomore D.J. Magley started 33 of 36 games last year and provides frontcourt support off the bench this season. Magley was held scoreless against Southern Illinois and Houston and hasn't played more than 15 minutes in any game this season.

6-7, 225-pound senior Mike Walker will see action at forward for Western Kentucky. Walker was third on the team last season in rebounding and averages 18 minutes per game this season. He has started two of WKU's first four games.

Breakdown

The Hilltoppers have struggled with consistency early this season. After a blowout 89-61 loss to Murray State Nov. 22 the Hilltoppers turned around to knock off Southern Illinois 79-70. Against the Racers, the ‘Tops struggled offensively shooting just 39 percent from the floor. They also had just 7 assists to 14 turnovers in that contest. Against Southern Illinois, WKU shot 48 percent from the field, including 47 percent from three. They also took much better care of the basketball, dishing 15 assists and committing only 11 turnovers. WKU will face its biggest challenge of the year against Louisville's relentless full court pressure and stifling 2-3 half court zone. The Cardinals are holding opponents to 47 points and 32 percent shooting this season.

Louisville 85, Morehead State 57


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