Leatherneck Men Fall Short Down the Stretch


MACOMB, Ill. – The Western Illinois men’s basketball team trailed by one at the half, but couldn’t turn the page in a 77-69 loss to Purdue Fort Wayne.

Kobe Webster finished the night with 18 points, while Ben Pyle added 17, James Claar 14, and Zion Young 10.

“We had a few lapses, but I think that happens through the course of the game. Both teams made some runs,” said head coach Billy Wright. “We came out ready to play, which is a big part of what we want to do, especially at home. They made their run, but we showed some resilience, some toughness. It was a fight. It was a great game. They just made more plays down the stretch.”

In a fast-paced first half, the Leathernecks faced a double-digit hole but entered the break down by just one point.

The night began with a Young 3-pointer before eventually swelling to an 8-2 lead, and when things started to get away, Western returned to the 3-ball to gain ground.

The ‘Dons led by as many as 11 in the opening half when the Leathernecks planned their attack. Webster capped a 7-0 run with a trey to close the distance, 25-21, and Pyle flexed his range to push Western ahead, 30-29, with 6:07 to go.

First half action primarily took place on the floor – one made free throw from each side – and the box was nearly identical in the 41-40 opening period where PFW went 18-for-32 and Western 17-for-38.

“The difference [down the stretch] was points in the paint and their ability to get to the lane,” said Wright. “They have shooters that you have to respect, and they did a good job in making tough and contested twos and threes.”

Western converted three more trifectas than Purdue Fort Wayne did in the second half, but in the end, it came down to pushing down the stretch. The Mastodons took their largest lead on a 64-49 advantage with 10:07 remaining, and Western worked to pull within seven on two different occasions, the final occurring on free throws near the 2-minute mark.

Twenty-six of PFW’s 36 second-half points were recorded in the paint, and seven were second chance opportunities.

The Leathernecks homestand continues Saturday at 2 p.m. with Denver.

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