The Western Illinois men’s basketball team renewed its longest standing and perhaps biggest rivalry on Monday night, with a battle against Eastern Illinois for the “Old Rail-Splitter Axe”. WIU came out flat, putting up just 25 points in the first half en route to a lopsided 85-47 loss.
It was a sloppy night for WIU, as they committed 19 turnovers and shot just 29% from the field. Ben Pyle had the best performance of the night with 14 points on 4-7 from 3, but overall, the offense looked stagnant. There was very little movement off the ball, forcing playmakers such as Kobe Webster and Zion Young to force up difficult, often times contested shots.
Defensively, they struggled greatly with EIU’s efficient half court offense, as the Panthers ran an extremely fluid and disciplined motion offense under Head Coach Jay Spoonhour. EIU shot 48% from the field and managed to get to the line 17 times on the night, hitting 15 of those tries. EIU also got plenty of production from its bench (outscored WIU 35-7), perhaps proving why they are one of the deeper teams in the Ohio Valley and currently sit atop the conference.
All in all, this was a lost game for WIU, one where they looked sloppy, out of control at times and above all else rusty. It was clear from watching the play on the court that the Leathernecks had not played in over a week. With the win, Eastern improves to 7-4 and as mentioned, sits atop the Ohio Valley, while WIU drops to 2-7 with the loss. WIU has a great opportunity for a bounce back game when they host NCCAA opponent Holy Family College on Thursday, while Eastern will next go on the road to an extremely tough environment in Grand Canyon.