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MACOMB, Ill. – Western Illinois men's basketball played host to Oral Roberts Thursday night (Jan. 16), where a late run sparked its visitors to an 87-70 victory. 

The outing concluded Western's three-game homestand and the sixth Summit League outing where both Zion Young (18 points) and Kobe Webster (15 points) finished in double-figures. 

"Turnovers, points off of turnovers and second-chance points were the difference tonight," said head coach Billy Wright. "We tried to go big there late in the second half, trying to match up and get some rebounds, but it somewhat made us stagnant on the offensive end.

"Give [Oral Roberts] credit. They were able to pound the boards, get to the paint, and get to the free-throw line. Ultimately, I think it was our rebounding and turnovers that hurt us."

It was raining 3-pointers at the start of the game.  

The Leathernecks made seven in the first half alone, and every one of their field goals was taken from behind the arc for a 15-13 advantage at the 14:49-mark. Ironically, it was a 3-pointer that provided the Golden Eagles their go-ahead basket, and it led to a 7-0 run. 

Oral Roberts managed a 41-36 edge at halftime, and while there were waves where it appeared Western would make a run, ORU responded to each attempt.

The Leatherneck deficit was four, 50-46, when Ben Pyle swished a corner trey at 15:46, and was later closed to three, 57-54, when Webster knocked down one of his own at 11:20. The game was within Western's grasp, no more than two possessions, until the final seven minutes of the night where ORU embarked on a 10-0 run. 

The typically cautious Leathernecks committed a Summit-high 16 turnovers to Oral Roberts' six, and the visitors scored 16 points on the mistakes. 

Western returns to action next Thursday at Omaha. 

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D.— Western Illinois men's golf student-athlete Kyle Irlbacker was named a Summit League Golfer to Watch, the league announced Thursday (Jan. 16).

 

"Kyle had a fantastic first semester," Director of Golf Lia Biehl Lukkarinen said. "He has the birdie making potential to be one of the top players in our league. I anticipate he will finish his senior year strong."


A total of nine student-athletes were selected to the list based on nominations by each team's head coach.
 
Irlbacker, a senior from Cary, Ill., played 14 rounds in the fall of 2019 with a team-best 72.79 average. His lowest round this season was a 66 in the second round of the SIUE Derek Dolenc Invitational (Sept. 23-24). He notched two top-10 finishes this past fall, including one top-5 placing.  


The Leathernecks were picked to finish eighth in the Summit League with a total of 16 points. Western Illinois opens the 2020 spring slate in St. George, Utah at the Pizza Hut Pat Hicks Thunderbird Invitational hosted by Southern Utah, Feb. 10-11.

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The Bushnell-Prairie City Spartans will travel to Farmington to match up against the Farmers in a conference game tonight (Jan.14) at 7:30 p.m.

 

The Spartans have been on a roll as they are on a 3 game win streak on the road. The Spartans truly showed their dominance last Friday (Jan.10) as they beat the Astoria/VIT Rebels 60-28. The Rebels have not had a good season thus far and have a record of (0-14). The Spartans took advantage and they now sport an 8-5 record.

 

Now the Spartans are pushed to 4th place in the Prairieland Basketball standings. The Farmers are not trailing far behind being 7th in the Prairieland Basketball standings. With the Farmers having a 7-3 record, this matchup can be challenging for the Spartans. This will be the first time both teams meet up this season. The game tonight can determine who moves up in the standings and who goes down

 

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The Western Illinois men’s basketball team faced off with Denver at Western Hall on Saturday, January 11, as the Leathernecks looked to lock up their second Summit League win. The Pioneers made a furious push towards the victory after being down 55-40 shortly after the start of the second half, getting the score to 79-78, before Ben Pyle knocked down a huge 3 to put the Leathernecks up 4. That shot allowed Kobe Webster and Zion Young to ice the game late with big free throws, and WIU escaped with an 86-80 win. 

 

The Leatherneck offense was humming as soundly as ever on Saturday, with the men astoundingly shooting exactly 50% both from the field and from 3, while they crucially knocked down 78% of their shots from the charity stripe. Pyle was the man for the moment not only on that clutch 3 but the “Mop-head from McPherson”, as Danny Frey put it on the commentary, put up 21 overall on 7-11 from the field and 4-6 from 3. Webster and Young both added 17 points as Young nailed the first three of the contest for what feels like the millionth time this season, while CJ Duff added 12 and Roderick Smith added a big 8 points off the bench in one of his best performances of the season. The Leathernecks have proven several times this season that they can shoot and score with just about anyone, the question still remains, can they defend enough? 

 

For Denver it was all about one man, Jase Townsend. The Sophomore guard seemingly dragged the Pioneers into the game on his back as he hit late shot after late shot to make WIU sweat out the win. He finished the day with a game-high 28 points on an extremely efficient 11-18 shooting from the field and 3-5 from 3, while Ade Murkey added 14 and Robert Jones put up a solid 13. All three of the Pioneers’ scoring leaders also added at least 5 rebounds, and all three shot 50% or better from the field. As a team Denver shot 52%, a figure WIU cannot keep allowing to happen if they have a hope of staying in contention for the Summit League Tournament. This week’s performances against PFW and the aforementioned Pioneers dropped the Leathernecks to 329th out of 353 division 1 programs in the KenPom Adjusted Defense rankings (points allowed per 100 possessions), which will be a massive problem for the remainder of the season should no improvement be seen. 

 

WIU (5-10, 2-3) will move forward to face Oral Roberts on Thursday, January 16, with a tip off set inside Western Hall at 7 PM. Denver (4-15, 0-5) will continue its search for its first Summit League win when it takes on Omaha at home on Saturday, January 18 with a tip off from Denver set for 2 PM Central Time/1 PM Denver Time.

 

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The Western Illinois women’s basketball team played its 5th Summit League matchup on Sunday, January 12, playing host to Denver. The Pioneers broke out quickly from the tip off, storming to a 20-8 lead roughly midway through the first quarter. WIU battled back from that point on, ending the quarter down just 21-15 and finishing the first half up 43-37, completing a 35-17 run from the 3:08 mark of the first quarter. WIU faced a stiff second half battle from Denver that saw Olivia Kaufmann, Evan Zars and Grace Gilmore take hard fouls in the head/face area, but ultimately prevailed 82-75.

 

So physical was the second half of play that Denver was assessed two intentional fouls, both taken by Gilmore, in the fourth quarter alone. Gilmore would leave the game late with what appeared to be a hip injury, but does not appear to have picked up anything long-term. After a bit of a bounce-back performance shooting the ball against Purdue-Fort Wayne, the Leathernecks fell right back into the pattern of struggling with their shot, finishing with percentages of 42% from the field and 26% from 3, though they did importantly shoot 80% from the free throw line. In a way though, this win proved what many doubted, which was an ability for WIU to score and, more importantly, win when their shots are not falling. The key for them, certainly in Summit play, appears to be drawing fouls and getting to the line. In 2 of their 3 league wins, they have attempted at least 20 free throws, including 33 trips to the line in the 2OT win over North Dakota State.

 

Olivia Kaufmann was a huge part of that success at the free throw line, as she not only finished 9-10 overall from the line, but crucially knocked down all 4 of the intentional free throws in the fourth quarter. She added to that line with 24 points, 3 assists and a very impressive 10 rebounds, considering her size and the physicality of the game. She never seems to shy away from a battle. There was a nice moment before the game for the senior guard as well, as she earned recognition for becoming Head Coach J.D. Gravina’s 6th player under his watch to join the 1000 point club. WIU alum and all-time leading scorer Taylor Higginbotham was on hand to celebrate the occasion. Zars recorded a 12 point, 10 rebound double-double, while Gilmore, Danni Nichols, Sam Pryor and Elizabeth Lütz each recorded double figure scoring totals to round out the box score for the Leathernecks. Uju Ezudu and Meghan Boyd led the way for Denver, with Ezudu dominating on the block to the tune of a 19 point, 14 rebound performance and Boyd performing a masterclass from long range with a 17 point performance on 5 made 3s. 

 

The Leathernecks (9-9, 3-2) will next host Oral Roberts on Saturday, January 18, with a tip off there scheduled for 4:30 PM. Meanwhile, Denver (7-11, 1-4) will return home to take on Omaha on Saturday the 18 as well, with a tip scheduled for 4:30 PM Central Time (3:30 Denver time).

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The Macomb boys basketball team played a back-to-back series over the weekend, taking on Monmouth-Roseville on Friday, January 10 and then Canton on Saturday, January 11. The Bombers played a defensive-minded game against the Titans in which Sam Allen and the offense struggled, falling to Monmouth 37-24 on Friday, but Macomb bounced back in a big way on Saturday. Allen and Sean Winters had big performances as the Bombers looked more fluid offensively in a tight 56-54 victory over Canton. 

 

It truly was a tale of two games for Macomb, as Allen went from 6 points on a wild shooting night Friday, to a much more efficient 12 points on Saturday in which he sought to involve his teammates more often. The performance of the weekend, however, was Winters’ 18 point night on Saturday that included a red-hot 13-point first half. He was able to stretch the floor for Macomb, ultimately opening up the lane for big men Adam Farr and Atoa Stone. The better shooting performance was a key to the bounce-back win, but for me the biggest difference was in the energy on the floor. For long stretches in Saturday's game it seemed like there was not one single loose ball or rebound the Bombers were not fighting for or getting their hands on, they contested shots well, and for the majority of the game made life difficult for the Little Giants. You might’ve thought it was a different team had you watched both Friday and Saturday’s games.

 

Canton did make a very strong fourth quarter push, with the bulk of the comeback coming from guard Trey Passmore. He ended with a 10-point second half on the back of a 4-point play and a wild sequence where he hit two straight threes to cut the lead to 4 late in the fourth quarter. His and Jake Smith’s shooting kept Canton in the game as they did a great job finding space off of ball screens and solid ball movement. Leighton Holthaus, however, was the man for the moment for Macomb, as he hit a pair of free throws and a big layup late to keep Macomb in the lead, while on the other end it came down to the Little Giants' ability to match that crunch-time ability. Passmore carried the ball back up the floor with the LittleGiants trailing 56-54, and took a three that clanked off the rim and Connor Wilcoxen was unable to get the rebound up in time. It was a wild finish but ultimately a very good win for the Bombers as a winless weekend would’ve left them feeling like they could have had more. It should also be noted that Canton’s Turner Plumer ended Saturday’s game with 16 points in a very solid performance down low. 

 

All three of these teams will play their next games on Tuesday, January 14, with Macomb playing host to Geneseo at 7:30 PM and both Canton and Monmouth-Roseville heading to Peoria. Monmouth-Roseville will face Peoria Heights at 7 PM, while Canton takes on Peoria Christian at 7:30 PM.  

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Thursday, January 9, represented a historic day for Western Illinois women’s basketball for a number of reasons, prime among them star guard Olivia Kaufmann’s proximity to 1000 career points, and the final visit to Western Hall for Purdue Fort Wayne as a member of the Summit League. The Leathernecks, and Kaufmann did not shy away from the moment, as Kaufmann notched her 1000 point just after the start of the second quarter on a three-pointer, and the Leathernecks earned a 79-68 victory. 

 

This was the first game for the Leathernecks with the knowledge that Annabel Graettinger will be out for the remainder of the 2019-20 season with a torn ACL, and we saw a bit of a new look lineup with Carla Flores moving into the starting 2-guard role. Graettinger joins a rapidly growing injury list that already included key bench players Avery Hamm and Kyra Washington, so the depth of the Leathernecks’ rotation will be tested for the rest of the season. Flores, among others, stepped up in a big way in this one, as WIU put up its best shooting performance (50% from the field, 35% from 3) in nearly a month. 

 

Flores put up a respectable 14 points to justify her inclusion in the starting 5 and Elizabeth Lutz, who will also likely be asked to step into a larger role with the aforementioned injury issues, stepped up with 12 points of her own. The performances of the night, however, came from Kaufmann and Evan Zars, who continues to look more and more like a go-to player for WIU. Kauffman finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Zars racked up 16 and 13 as WIU dominated on the inside. The Leathernecks won the points-in-the-paint battle 46-26 and out-rebounded PFW 42-31 in a real show of heart and hustle. 

 

The one problem the ‘Dons posed for the Leathernecks was a little-known bench player by the name of Hannah Hess. She made a name for herself on Thursday night, hitting 5 of her 11 three point attempt as she was able to consistently find space in the WIU defense and manufacture open shots. Hess’ shooting actually had the ‘Dons in the lead in the second quarter after 3 straight makes, and caused a furious J.D. Gravina to call a timeout to straighten out his defense. The Leathernecks heard the message and despite a late push from Fort Wayne, were able to pull put an 11-point victory. Hess ended with a career high 19 points, while the ‘Dons also got a career high 19 from Riley Ott and another 18 from Anna Lappenküper. 

 

WIU (8-9, 2-2) will next play host to Denver on Sunday, January 12, with a 2 PM tip off set inside Western Hall, while the Mastodons (4-12, 0-3) will next face off with South Dakota State at home on Sunday, January 12 at 2 PM.

 

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The Leathernecks will return to Macomb where they will play their next three games against Purdue Fort Wayne (Jan. 9), Denver (Jan. 12) and Oral Roberts (Jan. 18). 

 

To start the year off right, the Leathernecks triumphed over North Dakota on the road in a double-overtime victory with a score of 79-78  Thursday (Jan 2). Then followed by a thrilling victory over South Dakota State with a score of 75-74 Saturday (Jan 4). These wins pushed their overall record to 7-9 in the season.

 

Western has progressed this season as they are ranked top 10 in four statistical categories as of January 6. They are 1st in free throw attempts, 6th in three-point field goals made, 7th in Free throws made, and 10th in steals.

 

The Leathernecks hold the advantage as they beat Purdue Fort Wayne in their last 5 matchups against them. In addition, Western is 5-2 when facing off against teams in Western Hall. With the Leathernecks on a hot streak to start the new year, they will bring the energy tonight (Jan 9) at 7 p.m against Purdue Fort Wayne.

 

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The Western Illinois men’s basketball team played host to the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons on Wednesday, January 8, and despite a relatively back-and-forth game, WIU was unable to pull out enough late stops in a 77-69 loss.

 

The ‘Dons did the bulk of their damage through star guard Jarred Godfrey, who finished the night with 26 points and 13 rebounds. His tenacity and ability to get into the paint, whether it was for a drive or following a shot for a rebound, was tough to handle for WIU as they could not seem to consistently put a body on him. Among the other major contributors for Fort Wayne was Deonte Billups, a Moline native. Billups, who famously was recruited to WIU, finished the night with 19 points on an amazingly efficient 8-9 shooting from the field. Godfrey’s line of rebounding was a theme for the ‘Dons, as they hammered WIU on the boards. PFW had 5 players rack up at least 5 boards en route to out-rebounding the Leathernecks 47-32, 14 of which were PFW offensive rebounds. 

 

Perhaps the biggest example of the 'Dons' tenacity was on the final possession of the game. With 58 seconds left, WIU had just cut its deficit to 8 on a Kobe Webster three and the ‘Dons had the ball. Electing not to foul and stop the clock, WIU forced PFW to take a contested shot, which they missed and unfortunately secured an offensive rebound. WIU again elected not to foul, forcing another contested PFW shot, which again fell to PFW on the rebound. At this point the shot clock was turned off, with WIU still trailing by 8, and Fort Wayne ran the clock down to triple zeroes. That type of hustle was ultimately the difference between the ‘Dons and Leathernecks.

 

It wasn’t all bad for WIU, however, as Kobe Webster and Ben Pyle combined for 35 points on 8-17 shooting from distance. James Claar had one of his best performances of the season, going for 14 points and 7 rebounds while adding 2 blocks as well. Zion Young added 10 points, 6 of which came on his first two shots of the game. There were some nice secondary performances around this group, with Kyle Arrington playing some tough minutes down the stretch and earning some big buckets to keep WIU in the game. DreShawn Allen played some key minutes in spelling CJ Duff and played tough defense, leading the team in steals with 3. 

 

Another trend that continued with the loss, WIU has won only once on the 2019-20 season while scoring less than 70 points. The Leathernecks (4-10, 1-3) will get another chance at their second Summit League win when they take on Denver at Western Hall on Saturday, January 11 at 2 PM. Purdue Fort Wayne (9-9, 2-1), next takes on South Dakota State at home on January 11 with a tip set for 7 PM.

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Coming on the back of two bitter losses to both North Dakota State and South Dakota State, the Western Illinois men’s basketball team is looking for a rebound. That just might come on Wednesday, January 8, when the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons come to Macomb. The stakes will be raised in this matchup as it will be the last time PFW comes to Western Hall upon accepting a bid to join the Horizon League. 

 

The big story for PFW coming into this season was the departure of senior leader John Konchar. Konchar was the go-to man for the majority of his time with the ‘Dons, and with a knack for hard drives and drawing fouls, he quickly became one of the more entertaining mid-major players to watch nationwide. He was the statistical leader in nearly every category for PFW in 2018-19, and along with the departure of senior guard Kason Harrell, the onus would be on the youth in the team to step up and fill in the gaps. 

 

They have gotten off to a decent start, all things considered, coming into Wednesday’s visit to Macomb 8-9 and 1-1 in Summit League play. One of the biggest reasons the ‘Dons have been able to stay afloat has been the jump in production from sophomore guard Jarred Godfrey. Godfrey has increased his points per game average from a tick below 7, to 16, while shooting 48% from the field and leading the team in assists with a little over 3 per game. Redshirt junior Brian Patrick has stepped up as well, as he comes in averaging a tick over 13 points per game on 39% shooting from deep. The one to watch out for in the Leathernecks’ matchup with PFW, however, will be redshirt junior forward Dylan Carl. With meager averages of 8 points and 5 rebounds per game, the production doesn’t jump off the page. But with 6’11”, 240 lb. frame and coming on the back of a 19 point game against North Dakota State, he will give WIU problems in the paint. 

 

For WIU, the aforementioned string of recent results has them more than a little stung. In a year where South Dakota State lost Mike Daum to graduation and David Jenkins to a transfer, and where the aforementioned Konchar departed PFW, this was seen as a real opportunity for WIU to take a step forward and leapfrog some of the re-tooling teams in the conference. This has not come to be thus far, with WIU limping into this one at 4-9 overall with a 1-2 record in the Summit, though both losses have been by at least 20 points. One thing that was expected out of the Leathernecks that has come to fruition has been a pretty dynamic offense. Kobe Webster, at 15 points per game, leads a group of 4 regular starters averaging double digits, and when they are clicking they cause nightmares for opposing defenses. The problem, however, has been on defense. It seems to be that these previews become a weekly update on “how far KenPom dropped the WIU defensive ranking”, but for good reason. It’s just that bad. Coming into Wednesday’s matchup, WIU sits 321st, which for a positive spin is a bit up on last week’s 341. If they can improve that number, even into the 200s, they could be a competent challenger in the Summit. That appears, unfortunately, to be a big “if”.

 

Tip-off from Western Hall will be Wednesday, January 8, at 7 PM. The WIU women will also be at home against PFW this week, with their matchup coming Thursday, January 9.

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The Macomb-Western Holiday Basketball Tournament proved to be challenging for the Bombers as they face familiar foes and some highly ranked teams.

 

No matter the challenge the Bombers made sure to stay 10 toes down throughout each game in the tournament.  A highlighted player for Macomb is senior Sam Allen as he made the All-Tournament Team at the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament. Allen averaged 20.5 points within the four games. Allen scored a total of 82 points in four games. As a result, he was placed third amongst all the players in the tournament.

 

During their first matchup against Lewistown, the Bombers gained their second win of the season behind Allen’s 18-point performance. In the second matchup against their rivals Farmington, Allen put up a career-high of 23-points. Unfortunately, the game ended in a Bomber loss, but that didn't break their competitive spirit. That placed the Bombers in the fifth-place bracket where they faced Pittsfield. Allen with an outstanding night scored 22 points with 8-10 shooting and 8-8 from the line. Allen’s performance led the Bombers to victory over Pittsfield. Lastly, Allen scored 19 points in a loss to Liberty which put them in 5th place in the tournament.

 

“It’s been really fun to play on this court, play against some great competition, and be with my teammates,” said Allen. “We get to play a lot of teams that we already play or that are in our conference, so it’s good exposure for us because there are a lot of good teams here. We just have a lot of fun with it.”

 

Looking ahead, the Bombers move down to Class 2A, making postseason basketball all the more exciting for Macomb. The Bombers will look to improve their record as the season goes forward. Their next game will be against Kewanee on Tuesday (Jan 27) at 7:00 pm.

 

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The Western Illinois men’s basketball team headed to Fargo on Thursday for a matchup with the reigning Summit League champion North Dakota State Bison. It was very much a summary of the WIU season so far, as they scored the ball just about well enough, but could not get enough stops to secure a win. NDSU wound up taking the “W” in this one 94-74.

 

Going into the game, there were two NDSU players WIU needed to key in on if they wanted to have a shot at competing, and they just were not able to lock either down. One was senior guard Vinnie Shahid who racked up 22 points on 3-8 shooting from 3 and a solid 8-17 mark overall. The other was senior forward Tyson Ward, favored by many to rack up consideration for Summit League Player of the Year. Ward would not and could not be denied by the Leathernecks, as his 25 points, 6 assists, 9 made field goals, perfect free throw shooting (5-5) and 11 rebounds were all season highs. With these two at the helm, the Bison should continue to mark themselves as one of not only the best Summit League, but nationwide mid major programs.

 

For WIU, it was all about the defense, as offensively they put up a respectable 74 points on 44% shooting from the field and 36% from 3. The Bison out-rebounded WIU 41-26, including 8 offensive rebounds, while as a team they shot 57% from the field. This continued a trend of what has been a historically bad defensive performance, as KenPom has WIU’s adjusted defensive rating 341st of 351 Division 1 programs. If things do not improve defensively, it will not matter how strong the guard play or overall offense is. They simply must be better. 

 

For WIU (4-8) they will next head to Brookings, South Dakota, for the second half of a men’s/women’s double header against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Saturday, January 4. Meanwhile North Dakota State (10-5) takes on Northland College at home on Sunday, January 5, before returning to Summit League action on Thursday, January 9, with a road contest against Oral Roberts.

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The Western Illinois women’s basketball team hit the road on Thursday to take on North Dakota State in their second Summit League game, and first in 2020. Things looked dicey at times as WIU really struggled with its shooting and allowed the Bison to stay in the game. Sam Pryor came through late, however, with a number of clutch plays as the game went to overtime and eventually double overtime, and WIU earned a hard-fought win, 79-78.

 

The shooting struggles have become an unfortunate trend of late for WIU, as including last night, WIU has not shot above 36% from the field since a loss in the Compass Challenge to Southern Illinois and has not shot above 30% from 3 since a win at home over Southeast Missouri State. It will be a difficult test for Head Coach J.D. Gravina and his staff to remedy the problem with the conference schedule coming hard and fast in the new year. A remedy that does not become any easier with the absence of Annabel Graettinger. 

 

Now, this might seem all doom and gloom, but there were a number of positives from the Thursday night thriller. WIU played excellent defense, holding NDSU to marks of 37% from the field and 14% from 3 for the game. The Leathernecks additionally showed great resolve and fight in the fact that they did not let the Bison pull away at several key points late in regulation and both overtimes. The late play of Pryor was a huge factor as well, as the redshirt junior guard derives so much of her play from confidence. The clutch game-tying and game-winning shots in the two overtimes should do wonders. 

 

A win is a win, and WIU will take them no matter how they come in light of the recent run of play. For them to pull out a victory, no matter the quality of opponent, in this game where the offense struggled speaks volumes about the “never say die” attitude of the team. WIU (7-8) now heads to Brookings, South Dakota for a matchup with the always-tough South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Saturday with a tip off set for 2 PM. North Dakota State (3-11) gets a bit of an extended break, with their next game coming Wednesday, January 8, on the road against Oral Roberts for a 7 PM tip. 

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The Macomb Girls varsity basketball team will face off against the Williamsville Bullets today (Jan 2) at 1 pm in the Washington St. Gym. The Bombers will be heading into the game 3-9 after losing to the Hornets 71-50 on December 26th.

The Hornets were on a 4 game win streak before facing the Bombers. That win streak gave them the momentum to blow the Bombers out on their home floor. The Bombers ended off the decade on a loss, but they have a chance to turn their season around with start to a new year.

 

The Bombers will have a chance to defend their home floor in the very first game of the year. They are just 2-4 when facing opponents at home and 1-1 while going on the road. The Bombers are a phenomenal team, they just need to capitalize on defense more. Throughout the season thus far, they allowed 772 points when playing other teams. That's a lot of points given up with season almost being halfway done. If the Bombers can communicate on defense the rest of this season, it won't be too late to turn things around.

 

Williamsville will be entering today’s game on a 2 game losing streak with a record of 5-8. This game will be really intense as both teams are looking for their first win of the new year today (Jan 2) at 1 pm.

 

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The Western Illinois women’s basketball team has gotten off to a streaky start to the 2019-20 season, with the offense showing at times that they have the capability to be one of the best in the summit, and other times looking like they could not buy a basket. They come in to Thursday’s matchup, the first half of a men’s/women’s doubleheader on the road at North Dakota State, losers of 3 straight as they look to start 2020 with a bang.

 

In those 3 losses to Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and South Dakota, the Leathernecks have scored no more than 65 points and shot no better than 43% from the field. Star point guard Olivia Kaufmann has shot just 29% over that stretch while as a team, the Leathernecks are shooting just about 19% from 3 over the stretch. No matter which way you look at it or which stats you use, it has not been a good run for WIU, who could not be happier to see the calendar flip to 2020. 

 

Thursday’s matchup represents what should be a winnable game against a 3-10 North Dakota State team, though the Bison have been playing better of late with 2 of those 3 coming over their last 3 games. WIU will have to keep a very careful eye on NDSU junior guard Michelle Gaislerova, who comes in averaging just shy of 14 points per game and is coming off of an impressive 21-point performance against Denver in the Bison’s first conference game. She has been very effective at drawing fouls and converting from the line, as she has yet to miss a single one of her 17 free throw attempts on the season. Emily Dietz will create matchup problems for WIU down low as well, as she comes in averaging 12 points and nearly 9 rebounds per game, with an impressive 53% field goal percentage on the year.

 

This will be a big game in terms of rhythm for the Leathernecks, as it will be a great opportunity to work out a lot of the inefficiencies their offense has developed of late. Evan Zars may well turn out to be the key player in this one, as her ability to draw Dietz out of the lane could cause problems for the Bison defense. The Leathernecks will look to get 2020 started right when they tip off at 5 PM. 

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The Western Illinois men’s basketball team got conference play going on Saturday, December 29, with a huge win over South Dakota as it attempts to put an uneven non-conference schedule in the rearview mirror. That journey continues on Thursday, January 2, as the Leathernecks will head to Fargo to take on North Dakota State in the second half of a men’s/women’s double header.

 

WIU used perhaps its most well-rounded scoring attack in the win over USD with all 5 starters cracking double digits, and they will have to hope that type of momentum continues against a stingy Bison defense that allows just a tad over 60 points per game. If they continue to shoot the ball as well as they did against the Coyotes (44% from 3) they should be able to stay competitive against what is a much improved NDSU side. 

 

Defensively, the key for WIU will be stopping the combination of Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward. The two combine to average nearly 30 points per game, with an extremely impressive inside-out approach. Ward does most of his damage on the inside, with a 49% percentage shooting from the field, while Shahid leads the team in made 3s and 3-point percentage with 34 and 35% respectively. Rocky Kreuser and Ward on the boards will cause problems for WIU as well, with the two each responsible for more than 6 rebounds per game, so positioning in the paint will be extremely important for James Claar and company. 

 

WIU clearly has the offensive capabilities to keep up with and outscore the Bison, but the NDSU defense will be stiff and they come in with a scoring attack that will test WIU’s at-times-leaky defense. Tip-off from the Fargo Dome is set for 8 PM Thursday night. 

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MACOMB - The Western Illinois women's basketball team began the Summit League journey against South Dakota on Sunday (Dec. 29) inside Western Hall.

 

To kick-off the league doubleheaders, the Leathernecks strung together short runs throughout the game, but the Coyotes responded to each run with a strong second half defeat of 65-96.  

 

"I thought we came out and played really hard, and we played really physically," the head coach said, JD Gravina. "In the second-half South Dakota was making some adjustments and got more physical around the basket. I think we let ours drop just a touch and they were able to get some easier scores around the basket."

 

The Leathernecks earned their first lead of the game after Junior Olivia Kaufmann completed an and-one attempt to make it 7-8 before the end of the first. 

 

Before both sides entered halftime, Elizabeth Lutz caught a pass and drilled the last-second layup to head into to make it a one-possession game (35-38, USD). 

However, the second half favored #22, South Dakota as the Coyotes came out and shot over 65 percent from the field and a perfect (10-10) at the free-throw line to pull away from the Fighting Leathernecks. 

 

Now the women are on a three-game losing streak. Next, Western Illinois will hit the road for action against North Dakota State (Jan. 2) and South Dakota State (Jan. 4).

 

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MACOMB – Sunday (Dec 29) was the start of Summit League play as Western Illinois men's basketball team will enter the new year with an 82-75 victory over South Dakota. 

 

"It starts in practice for us," said head coach Billy Wright. "Coming back from break, you never know how the guys are going to respond, but we have great leadership, and it led to good practice and ultimately a great game. Our guys came ready to play, mentally and physically, and that's half the battle”.

 

The up-tempo offense had the crowd at Western Hall ecstatic to watch in the first half as the teams ripped up and down the court for a 39-38 Leatherneck advantage before the break. There were eight lead changes in the first half, including three within the final minute. The last lead change came from Junior Guard Kobe Webster when he raised up for a mid-range jumper before the break.

 

Both teams shot over 40 percent from the floor, and two players from each side were in double figures. Including  Summit League Preseason Player of the Year Stanley Umede, who had 16 points. 

 

Neither team pulled ahead by more than five points in the opening half, and the score sat within one or two possessions until Sophomore Zion Young drained a corner three in the second half which gave Western the 48-40 lead. The Coyotes pressured to tie things at 66-all with under 8 minutes with a trip to the line, but they couldn't obtain the lead again. The Leathernecks went on an 8-0 run with three-pointers from DreShawn Allen and Zion Young.

 

Young guided the Leatherneck lineup with a team-high 21 points, all of them recorded in the second quarter, and he was one of five starters to finish in double-digits. Zion Young didn't have a great first half start but kicked it into gear when it counted. The sophomore nearly recorded his second career double-double by grabbing a game-high nine rebounds.

 

More highlighted players are Webster who added 18 points and seven assists, C.J. Duff with 12 points and seven boards, Ben Pyle with 11 points and eight boards, and James Claar with 10 points. 

 

Now the Leathernecks will continue their journey through the Summit League with a trip to the Dakotas. Action against North Dakota State is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m., and South Dakota State Saturday at 4:15 p.m.

 

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The Western Illinois women’s basketball team headed to Northern Illinois for the annual Compass Challenge Tournament on Thursday, aiming to prove they reign supreme over the directional schools in the state. Unfortunately they fell a bit flat in the first round, falling 79-65 to Southern Illinois. 

 

If Tuesday night represented what the Leathernecks can look like when their shots are falling, Thursday represented what they can look like when the shots do not. With marks of 43% from the field, 29% from 3 and 65% from the line, it was a difficult shooting night for WIU. Evan Zars led the way for the Leathernecks as their most efficient offensive player, with a career high 13 points, 10 rebounds and a block. Danni Nichols and Sam Pryor each recorded double digit nights with 10 points apiece for WIU, but that was about it for the production on offense. Olivia Kaufmann and Annabel Graettinger, the leaders from Tuesday’s win, combined to go 4-17 from the field for 15 points. 

 

On the Southern side, 4 of their 5 starters ended the night in double figures, with McKenzie Silvey leading the charge with 15 points on 6-13 shooting. Abby Brockmeyer had a nice day down low as well, recording a 13 point, 11 rebound double-double on 5-9 from the field, while Nicole Martin racked up 9 rebounds as well as the Salukis out-rebounded WIU 44-30. 3-point shooting is really where Southern made its impact on the game, however, as the Salukis shot 43% on 30 attempts and had 6 different players record at least one made 3. 

 

This was a competitive game up until the fourth quarter, as evidenced by the 10 ties and 17 lead changes over the course of the game. Southern’s ability to knock down open shots, and WIU’s cold shooting, led to a fourth quarter pull-away by the Salukis. This could, as well, easily be looked at as a symptom of the Leathernecks’ 5th game this season against Missouri Valley competition, routinely regarded as one of the toughest conferences in all of women’s college basketball. WIU has gone 1-4 in those contests and been outscored 407-337. With these games added to a non-league list that also includes road contests against Missouri and Purdue, it has been incredibly tough sledding for WIU. 

 

WIU, sitting at an even 6-6 with the loss, will play in the third place game of the Compass Challenge on Friday, with the women taking on Eastern Illinois at 4:30 PM at Northern Illinois. SIU improved to 7-3 with the win here, and they will go on to play Northern Illinois in the Compass Challenge Championship game at noon from the NIU Convocation Center. This will wrap up non-league play for both teams, with WIU kicking off Summit League play on December 29 with a home matchup against South Dakota. SIU kicks off league play against Valparaiso on the road on January 3, after a neutral exhibition against William Woods on December 29 in Carbondale. 

 

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The Western Illinois Women’s Basketball team will battle against Southern Illinois on the road on Thursday (Dec 19) at 4:30 p.m. The Leathernecks are quite impressive this season as they have an overall record of 6-5. They’re on a 2 game win streak after beating Southeast Missouri (Dec 7) and Chicago State (Dec 17). The Leathernecks will push for their 3rd straight win in DeKalb against the Salukis as they carry their momentum from their previous 2 wins.

 

The Leathernecks will be faced with a challenge as they are just 1-4 when it comes to playing games on the road. WIU hasn't been matched up against SIU since March 17, 2016, which ended in a Leatherneck win with a score of 99-97. Their very first matchup in 11/1/2006 also ended in a Leatherneck win with a score of 70-68. Even though both games were close, the Leathernecks are 2-0 against Southern Illinois.

 

Years later these teams are scheduled to play once again. The Leathernecks made history by hitting a total of 17 three-pointers in a game against Southeast Missouri. WIU has struggled on the road this season thus far, so this game determines if they break their bad luck on the road.

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