(WIU point guard Emily Clemens. Photo courtesy of David Eggen, Dakota Press)
Western opened up day one of the 2017 Summit League Basketball Tournament in style, smoking Denver 82-39. The win moves WIU to 24-6 on the season, breaking the program's all-time single season wins mark. The Leathernecks now advance to the Semifinals, where they'll play either South Dakota or Omaha on Monday.
WIU led the entire game, despite missing their first five shots of the game. After Western scored its first points of the game on a Mallory Boyle layup, the team went on a 10-0 run, and wound up leading 19-2 after the first quarter of play. The team didn't allow a single field goal in that first quarter.
The Leathernecks built their lead up to 22 points early in the second quarter, but an 11-0 run for the Pioneers trimmed that figure to 11. WIU Head Coach JD Gravina called a timeout and from there the game was all Western.
Junior point guard and Summit League Player of the Year, Emily Clemens, finished the game with 17 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals. A total of five Leathernecks reached double figures, with Clemens, Morgan Blumer (15 points), Taylor Hanneman (11 Points), Olivia Braun (10 points, 10 rebounds), and Mallory Boyle (10 points) hitting that mark.
(WIU's Olivia Braun spots up from behind the arc. Photo courtesy of David Eggen, Dakota Press)
The game really was won on the defensive end. The Leatherneck's matchup zone caused all sorts of trouble for the Pioneers. Western swiped 15 steals, forced 23 turnovers, and held Denver to 25 percent shooting on the game, including 22 percent from downtown. 39 points is the lowest amount that Western has yielded to a Division 1 opponent all season. The only team at any level to score less against WIU this year is Division 3 foe Monmouth College, with 29 in the season opener.
With the amount of time WIU had to prepare for this game and it being the third time that these teams have met this season, Western knew Denver's offense so well that at time's it looked like the team knew exactly what the Pioneers were running and when they were going to do it.
The 43 point win is the largest margin of victory in a Summit League Tournament Women's Basketball game since 1993. Western faces the winner of South Dakota and Omaha Monday at Noon in Sioux Falls. Those two teams face off Sunday at noon.
(WIU's Morgan Blumer sizing up her defender. Photo courtesy of David Eggen, Dakota Press)
WIU Postgame Press Conference (Head Coach JD Gravina & Players Emily Clemens & Morgan Blumer):