VERMILLION, S.D. — Trailing by as many as 21 with less than seven minutes to go in the third, Western Illinois’ monumental comeback fell short, with a 92-81 result at South Dakota (18-5, 9-0) Thursday night (Feb. 1).
Taylor Higginbotham led the way with 28 points (one shy of her career-high) and she also tied her career-high of six three-pointers in the game for the second time. Emily Clemens recorded 21 points in the loss.
“I’m very proud of the way we battled back tonight,” said head coach JD Gravina. “We were able to cut a 21-point lead all the way to three points, but couldn’t quite get the stops to get over the top.”
Both teams exchanged buckets in the first quarter as Clemens sparked the Purple and Gold with a pair of three-pointers. After the first quarter of play, the Leathernecks found themselves in a 19-14 deficit.
In the second quarter, South Dakota built a double-digit cushion, as the Western deficit increased to 15 with 7:35 to go in the second. The Leathernecks answered with a quick 7-0 spurt led by Clemens and Higginbotham to cut the lead down to 11, but the Coyotes were able to respond and own a 42-27 lead at the half.
Down by as many as 21 in the third, the Leathernecks were able to close out the last 3:57 of the quarter on a 14-2 run to make it a 62-53 game heading in the fourth.
The USD lead eventually fell to only three points after a backdoor cut by Morgan Blumer for a quick score off the dish from Michelle Farrow. The Leathernecks would cut it to three two more times off baskets by Olivia Kaufmann and Higginbotham, but could never quite get over the hump.
The Coyotes eventually went on a late run over the last three minutes to secure the 12-point win and remain unbeaten in the league, while Western falls to 16-7 overall and 6-3 in Summit League play.
The Leathernecks have a quick turnaround, as they travel to Tulsa, Okla. to take on Oral Roberts Saturday (Feb. 3) at 2 p.m. in Summit League action.