Cougars beat W. Kentucky
Aubrey Coleman snatched the rebound and didn’t show a sign of hesitation. The junior guard had one thing on his mind – making a statement.
He blazed his way up the court, navigating around defenders without losing speed or momentum, and when he got within launching range he elevated. His athleticism seemed to surprise the three Western Kentucky defenders around him. Coleman threw it down with two hands in traffic to score the final points in the Cougars’ 73-64 comeback win over the Hill Toppers on Saturday.
Statement made – this team doesn’t let off the gas.
"We had to make a statement," Coleman said. "Coach (Tom) Penders says every game we play, we have to make a statement."
Junior forward Qa’rraan Calhoun, who also made critical shots in the second half to seal the win, agreed.
"That was a good statement right there," he said.
The Cougars were outplayed in most aspects of the game in the first 20 minutes. They were killed on the boards 26-14, and to make matters worse, they allowed Western Kentucky to grab eight offensive rebounds. This resulted in a multitude of second-chance opportunities for the Hill Toppers, which led to a 37-27 deficit for the Cougars at the end of the first half.
Penders said his team went into the game without knowing what to expect. Western Kentucky head coach Ken McDonald wasn’t the man calling the plays for last season’s Sweet 16 team, and the Cougars had no idea what kind offense or defensive schemes the rookie coach would throw at them.
"To the players’ credit, at halftime when we talked about adjustments and how we wanted to play certain things," Penders said.
Calhoun’s tip following a junior guard Kelvin Lewis’ missed jumper gave the Cougars a 46-45 lead with 12:08 remaining in the game. It was their first lead in nearly 30 minutes of playing time.
"For a young and inexperienced group you don’t always expect that, but I was glad that they did that," Penders said. "They turned it around right from the beginning of the second half. Western Kentucky, being the good club that they are, they didn’t run away and hide."
Junior college transfers Coleman and Calhoun led the Cougars in scoring against the Hill Toppers with 19 points and 15 points, respectively. However, both players and Penders said the victory would not have materialized if freshman point guard Desmond Wade and sophomore forward Horace McGloster hadn’t given the team solid minutes.
McGloster came off the bench and scored eight points in nine minutes to keep the Cougars competitive in the first half while Calhoun struggled to get into the game.
Wade played 39 minutes for the second consecutive game to provide the Cougars with eight assists. The true point guard only had two turnovers, and on the defensive side of the ball, put the clamps on Hill Topper junior starting point guard Anthony Sally.
The Cougars continue their season against Alcorn State on Tuesday at Hofheinz Pavilion.