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Western Illinois Women's Basketball: Leathernecks Drop West Coast Contest At Gonzaga

Taylor Higginbotham, WIU Women’s Basketball

SPOKANE, Wash. — Western Illinois dropped only its third game of the season off an 80-65 decision on the road to Gonzaga Thursday night (Dec. 21).

“Gonzaga is a really good team, especially with Jill Barta back from injury,” said head coach JD Gravina. “They are extremely physical. I’m proud of the way we battled, especially through some foul trouble. In the end, I hope we learned a lot from playing in that tremendous atmosphere that will help us down the road.”

Morgan Blumer started off hot in the first quarter, as she went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to give the Leathernecks a 25-17 lead after one quarter of play. Gonzaga, however, was able to mount a second quarter comeback, which was capped off by an and-1 during a 6-0 run to retake a 30-29 lead with 4:43 to go until the half.

At the half, Western trailed by four.

The Bulldogs pulled away with a score of 46-38 off back-to-back buckets, but the Leathernecks refused to back down and kept the game at a single digit deficit. After a corner three-pointer by Taylor Higginbotham cut Gonzaga’s lead at 56-52 with 1:48 to go in the third, the Bulldogs spurted another 6-0 run to pull ahead by 10 heading into the fourth.

Despite hitting some shots down the stretch, the Leathernecks could not make it a one-possession game in the final 10 minutes of play and were edged 18-15 in the last quarter to fall 80-65.

Blumer’s 22-point performance off five 3-pointers helped pace Western Illinois, while Higginbotham recorded yet another double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds for her fifth of the season.

Gonzaga had a trio of players who recorded double-doubles, led by the effort of Jill Barta’s 21 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Zykera Rice’s 14 points and 13 rebounds, as well as Chandler Smith’s 12 points and 11 rebounds.

The Leathernecks are off on a holiday break and cap of the non-league season with a Dec. 28 matchup at in-state rival Bradley followed by The Summit League opener at Fort Wayne (Dec. 30).

PLAYER NOTES:
-Morgan Blumer’s 22 points mark her third 20-plus point performance this season and the ninth of her career… five made three-pointers ties a season high for the second time…

-Taylor Higginbotham recorded her second-straight double-double, which gives her five on the season…

-Emily Clemens’ nine assists is her 51st career game of recording five or more assists…

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