There was a battle, and Western Illinois men's basketball rose to the challenge, but couldn't overthrow North Dakota in an 83-77 contest Saturday night (January 25) at the Betty Engelstand Sioux Center.
"I'm so proud of our guys," said head coach Billy Wright. "They faced adversity here on the road, but they stuck to the scheme defensively. Offensively, we moved the ball. We had 12 assists, six turnovers, and shot pretty good. When we needed a bucket we went inside or attacked the rim. We just couldn't overcome the disparity at the free throw line."
As time expired, Kobe Webster nailed a midrange jumper to send his team into halftime down by three. The step back cemented his 15th point – on 7-for-9 shooting from the floor – and with several of his teammates in foul trouble, Webster became the Leathernecks' anchor. He contributed nearly half of the team's points while four Leathernecks battled two fouls each.
North Dakota led by as many as nine with 6:38 to go, but the final four minutes went quiet from both sides. Webster's late shot was the only made attempt in the last 3:42, and it crowned a 7-2 Leatherneck run to pull the score to 35-32.
An energetic UND squad stepped on the court to start the second frame, and the Hawks immediately took off for a 13-0 run. They held a double-digit advantage until the 13-minute mark where senior C.J. Duff scored 10 points in a three-minute span.
Anthony Jones' 3-pointer saw the deficit cut to 59-54 with 9:35 left, and the Leathernecks stayed within striking distance, even though they couldn't pull any closer.
North Dakota finished the night shooting 26-for-33 from the line in comparison to the Leathernecks' 9-for-10 effort.
Four more home contests remain on WIU's regular season schedule, and the next two will take place this Thursday and Saturday. North Dakota State will be the first to take to Western Hall at 7:30 p.m.