Coming on the back of two bitter losses to both North Dakota State and South Dakota State, the Western Illinois men’s basketball team is looking for a rebound. That just might come on Wednesday, January 8, when the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons come to Macomb. The stakes will be raised in this matchup as it will be the last time PFW comes to Western Hall upon accepting a bid to join the Horizon League.
The big story for PFW coming into this season was the departure of senior leader John Konchar. Konchar was the go-to man for the majority of his time with the ‘Dons, and with a knack for hard drives and drawing fouls, he quickly became one of the more entertaining mid-major players to watch nationwide. He was the statistical leader in nearly every category for PFW in 2018-19, and along with the departure of senior guard Kason Harrell, the onus would be on the youth in the team to step up and fill in the gaps.
They have gotten off to a decent start, all things considered, coming into Wednesday’s visit to Macomb 8-9 and 1-1 in Summit League play. One of the biggest reasons the ‘Dons have been able to stay afloat has been the jump in production from sophomore guard Jarred Godfrey. Godfrey has increased his points per game average from a tick below 7, to 16, while shooting 48% from the field and leading the team in assists with a little over 3 per game. Redshirt junior Brian Patrick has stepped up as well, as he comes in averaging a tick over 13 points per game on 39% shooting from deep. The one to watch out for in the Leathernecks’ matchup with PFW, however, will be redshirt junior forward Dylan Carl. With meager averages of 8 points and 5 rebounds per game, the production doesn’t jump off the page. But with 6’11”, 240 lb. frame and coming on the back of a 19 point game against North Dakota State, he will give WIU problems in the paint.
For WIU, the aforementioned string of recent results has them more than a little stung. In a year where South Dakota State lost Mike Daum to graduation and David Jenkins to a transfer, and where the aforementioned Konchar departed PFW, this was seen as a real opportunity for WIU to take a step forward and leapfrog some of the re-tooling teams in the conference. This has not come to be thus far, with WIU limping into this one at 4-9 overall with a 1-2 record in the Summit, though both losses have been by at least 20 points. One thing that was expected out of the Leathernecks that has come to fruition has been a pretty dynamic offense. Kobe Webster, at 15 points per game, leads a group of 4 regular starters averaging double digits, and when they are clicking they cause nightmares for opposing defenses. The problem, however, has been on defense. It seems to be that these previews become a weekly update on “how far KenPom dropped the WIU defensive ranking”, but for good reason. It’s just that bad. Coming into Wednesday’s matchup, WIU sits 321st, which for a positive spin is a bit up on last week’s 341. If they can improve that number, even into the 200s, they could be a competent challenger in the Summit. That appears, unfortunately, to be a big “if”.
Tip-off from Western Hall will be Wednesday, January 8, at 7 PM. The WIU women will also be at home against PFW this week, with their matchup coming Thursday, January 9.