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.
“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.