Thursday, January 9, represented a historic day for Western Illinois women’s basketball for a number of reasons, prime among them star guard Olivia Kaufmann’s proximity to 1000 career points, and the final visit to Western Hall for Purdue Fort Wayne as a member of the Summit League. The Leathernecks, and Kaufmann did not shy away from the moment, as Kaufmann notched her 1000 point just after the start of the second quarter on a three-pointer, and the Leathernecks earned a 79-68 victory.
This was the first game for the Leathernecks with the knowledge that Annabel Graettinger will be out for the remainder of the 2019-20 season with a torn ACL, and we saw a bit of a new look lineup with Carla Flores moving into the starting 2-guard role. Graettinger joins a rapidly growing injury list that already included key bench players Avery Hamm and Kyra Washington, so the depth of the Leathernecks’ rotation will be tested for the rest of the season. Flores, among others, stepped up in a big way in this one, as WIU put up its best shooting performance (50% from the field, 35% from 3) in nearly a month.
Flores put up a respectable 14 points to justify her inclusion in the starting 5 and Elizabeth Lutz, who will also likely be asked to step into a larger role with the aforementioned injury issues, stepped up with 12 points of her own. The performances of the night, however, came from Kaufmann and Evan Zars, who continues to look more and more like a go-to player for WIU. Kauffman finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Zars racked up 16 and 13 as WIU dominated on the inside. The Leathernecks won the points-in-the-paint battle 46-26 and out-rebounded PFW 42-31 in a real show of heart and hustle.
The one problem the ‘Dons posed for the Leathernecks was a little-known bench player by the name of Hannah Hess. She made a name for herself on Thursday night, hitting 5 of her 11 three point attempt as she was able to consistently find space in the WIU defense and manufacture open shots. Hess’ shooting actually had the ‘Dons in the lead in the second quarter after 3 straight makes, and caused a furious J.D. Gravina to call a timeout to straighten out his defense. The Leathernecks heard the message and despite a late push from Fort Wayne, were able to pull put an 11-point victory. Hess ended with a career high 19 points, while the ‘Dons also got a career high 19 from Riley Ott and another 18 from Anna Lappenküper.
WIU (8-9, 2-2) will next play host to Denver on Sunday, January 12, with a 2 PM tip off set inside Western Hall, while the Mastodons (4-12, 0-3) will next face off with South Dakota State at home on Sunday, January 12 at 2 PM.