The Western Illinois women’s basketball team has gotten off to a streaky start to the 2019-20 season, with the offense showing at times that they have the capability to be one of the best in the summit, and other times looking like they could not buy a basket. They come in to Thursday’s matchup, the first half of a men’s/women’s doubleheader on the road at North Dakota State, losers of 3 straight as they look to start 2020 with a bang.
In those 3 losses to Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and South Dakota, the Leathernecks have scored no more than 65 points and shot no better than 43% from the field. Star point guard Olivia Kaufmann has shot just 29% over that stretch while as a team, the Leathernecks are shooting just about 19% from 3 over the stretch. No matter which way you look at it or which stats you use, it has not been a good run for WIU, who could not be happier to see the calendar flip to 2020.
Thursday’s matchup represents what should be a winnable game against a 3-10 North Dakota State team, though the Bison have been playing better of late with 2 of those 3 coming over their last 3 games. WIU will have to keep a very careful eye on NDSU junior guard Michelle Gaislerova, who comes in averaging just shy of 14 points per game and is coming off of an impressive 21-point performance against Denver in the Bison’s first conference game. She has been very effective at drawing fouls and converting from the line, as she has yet to miss a single one of her 17 free throw attempts on the season. Emily Dietz will create matchup problems for WIU down low as well, as she comes in averaging 12 points and nearly 9 rebounds per game, with an impressive 53% field goal percentage on the year.
This will be a big game in terms of rhythm for the Leathernecks, as it will be a great opportunity to work out a lot of the inefficiencies their offense has developed of late. Evan Zars may well turn out to be the key player in this one, as her ability to draw Dietz out of the lane could cause problems for the Bison defense. The Leathernecks will look to get 2020 started right when they tip off at 5 PM.