Wild Game Sees Leathernecks Take Tigers to OT
The Western Illinois women’s basketball team got its 2019 regular season campaign kicked off on Tuesday in a road matchup with Missouri. They competed for 4 quarters, seeing regulation end with an 81-81 score, before falling 97-89 in overtime. The grit, determination and toughness shown by WIU led to an encouraging result that suggests a bright season is ahead.
Perhaps most encouraging from this game was the performance of sophomore transfer Evan Zars. Coming in from St. Louis University, Zars was expected to provide the Leathernecks with a big boost on the iside and did just that. She racked up an astounding 20 rebounds while blocking 3 shots as she provided head coach J.D. Gravina with a weapon he has not, truth be told, had in his time at WIU. Should she keep up the impressive pace she established in Tuesday’s game, she will be one of WIU’s top performers in 2019.
WIU also saw a big time performance from senior guard Olivia Kauffman on Tuesday, as she poured in 23 points while racking up an impressive 11 boards from the guard position. Hers and the Leathernecks’ shooting ability was on display throughout this one, as she managed to shoot 2-5 from 3, while the team as a whole shot a respectable 37% from deep with 12 makes.
Ultimately, it seemed that Missouri’s athleticism and conditioning proved too much for WIU, as the Tigers made a real push at the end of the second half and through overtime to pick up the win. WIU is always fighting an uphill battle in these kinds of matchups and appeared to physically get more and more tired the more they fought to stay in this one. This, however, is still an incredibly encouraging result for WIU, who was up against a Missouri side featuring 2 5-star recruits in Haley Frank and Aijha Blackwell, as well as a superstar senior who has drawn player-of-the-year consideration in Amber Smith.
WIU will get its next chance to pick up its first win when it returns home on Friday, November 8, to take on Culver-Stockton. Tip off is set for 5:30 PM for the home opener from Western Hall and you can hear the action live on 104.1 WMQZ, a member of the Leatherneck Sports Network.