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Western Illinois Women's Basketball: Leathernecks Roll Past Omaha On Record-Setting Day

JD Gravina, WIU Men’s Basketball Head Coach

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A second quarter scoring surge helped the No. 3-seeded Western Illinois Leathernecks cruise past No. 6 Omaha, 97-57, in the opening round of The Summit League Championships (March 4).Three shy of her career-high, Emily Clemens led the way with a game-high 36 points. She also etched her name in the league record books, recording eight steals to tie former Leatherneck Tiffani Morrison (March 6, 1997 vs. Youngstown State) for the second-most in a tournament game.

 “Obviously, that was what we wanted to do in that opening round game,” said head coach JD Gravina. “I told the girls something that many coaches would really not like before the game. Everyone talks about not looking ahead to the next game, but I told our girls that we are looking ahead. We are looking ahead to see what we can do in this tournament. Part of looking ahead and part of getting to where we want to be is taking care of business today. 

“If you want to go to the NCAA tournament, if you have to win this tournament, beginning with how bad you want to win this game. I thought they came out and showed it. Omaha came off to a tremendous start, I think they were 5-for-6 from three in the opening minutes. I told the girls that I thought we were doing everything right but they were just hitting some tough shots. We needed to change up our defense a little bit.” 

All five Leatherneck starters got on the board early in the first to help the team to a 20-16 lead with 3:18 left. By the end of the quarter, their advantage stuck at 24-20, before a 21-1 run allowed Western to separate in the second. 

An and-1 by Clemens increased their lead to 45-21, forcing an Omaha timeout. Through the second quarter alone, Western Illinois outscored the Mavericks, 32-6, to build a 30-point lead at halftime.

Taylor Higginbotham finished the afternoon with 23 points and nine rebounds, and Sam Pryor came off of the bench to contribute 12 points. Olivia Braun added a team-high 10 rebounds and seven assists, with eight points.

Western Illinois returns to the PREMIER Center tomorrow (March 5) for the semifinal round of The Summit League Championships. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. against the No. 2-seeded South Dakota State.

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