(Photo of sophomore Taylor Higginbotham via WIU Athletic Communications)
Despite leading early and hanging with a nationally ranked Florida State team on their home court, Western Illinois Women's Basketball lost 87-66 in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.
The 14th seeded Leathernecks held a 19-12 lead after the 1st quarter of play, with sophomore Taylor Higginbotham scoring 12 of the teams first 14 points. Western got hot from beyond the arc early, stroking 7 three pointers in the first half. The 3rd seeded Seminoles went on a few runs in the second quarter, but WIU stuck with FSU, only trailing 36-34 at halftime.
The second half was a different story, as Florida State slowly but surely pulled away. Western could not contain Seminoles star player Shakayla Thomas, who finished the night with 23 points and 14 boards. The defecit was still manageable for Western Illinois after the third quarter, with Florida State up 67-56.
In the 4th quarter the Leathernecks ran out of gas. With Higginbotham on the bench after an inadvertant elbow from a FSU player required her to get stiches, the WIU offense could not get going in that final frame. The Seminoles quickly expanded their lead and walked away with a 21 point victory.
WIU finished this historic season with a 26-7 record, a program best. The team made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. This was the final game for seniors Mallory Boyle and Jasmine Patrick.
Taylor Higginbotham: 20 Points (8-16 FG) (3-5 3FG), 3 Rebounds
Morgan Blumer: 12 Points (4-10 FG) (3-6 3FG), 6 Rebounds
Taylor Hanneman: 11 Points (4-8 FG) (3-6 3FG)
Emily Clemens: 9 Points (2-7 FG), 7 Assists