Western Illinois Men’s Basketball: Leathernecks Open League Play with a Dub


MACOMB, Ill. – The Western Illinois men’s basketball team will enter the new year on the back of an 82-75 victory over South Dakota. The Sunday (Dec. 29) contest opened Summit League play for both programs. 

“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.

“Give credit to our crowd. They gave us good energy all game, especially when it was winning time in those last four minutes. They energized us and helped us close the game.”

Up-tempo and plenty of action, the LeRoy A. Ufkes court was buzzing in the first half as the teams ripped up and down the court for a 39-38 Leatherneck advantage at the break. There were eight lead changes in the opening half, including three in the final minute, where Kobe Webster lifted his team ahead on a mid-range jumper with 15 seconds left.

Both teams shot over 40 percent from the floor, and four were already in double figures — two on each side — led by the Summit League Preseason Player of the Year Stanley Umede, who had 16 points. 

Neither squad was able to pull ahead by more than five points in the first frame, and the score sat within one or two possessions until Zion Young drained a corner trey with 17:31 left. The bucket pushed Western up, 48-40, and the Leathernecks took the game’s first, and lone, double-digit edge a few seconds later. 

The Coyotes pressured to tie things at 66-66 all (8:58) with a trip to the line, but their counterpart wouldn’t relinquish their lead. Western worked a 10-0 run after the stalemate, highlighted by identical corner treys 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. The sophomore forward nearly recorded his second career double-double by grabbing a game-high nine rebounds. 

Webster added 18 points and seven assists, C.J. Duff contributed 12 points and seven boards, Ben Pyle finished with 11 points and eight boards, and James Claar wrapped the contingent with 10 points. 

The Leathernecks continue their journey through the Summit League with a trip to the Dakotas. Action against North Dakota State is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m., and South Dakota State Saturday at 4:15 p.m. 

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