Leathernecks Fight for Gritty Saturday Road Win

Story provided by Western Illinois University…

STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Western Illinois women’s basketball (5-1, 0-0) increased its winning streak to five on Saturday (Nov. 27), coming from behind to grab an admirable victory over Tarleton State (4-2, 0-0).

“Today was a pretty ugly offensive performance, but I’m proud that this team found a way to win,” said WIU head coach JD Gravina. “We defended and rebounded well all game, which kept us within striking distance even when things were not going our way. It was also important to play a close game and have to do some things down the stretch.”

Down 7-0 in the opening period, Western’s first basket came on a free throw by Jada Thorpe at the 5:27 mark — one of only five team points scored by the Leathernecks in the quarter. Entering the next frame, a triple by Anna Deets, followed by ensuing points from Elizabeth Lutz, helped WIU begin to find a better offensive flow. Samantha Pryor knocked down a three to have her squad trailing by a small margin, 19-17. However, Tarleton State quickly responded with a 9-0 push. Back-to-back finishes in the paint from Evan Zars added a few more into Western’s scoring column, but the Texans headed into halftime with a 30-21 advantage.

A few team returners kept WIU pretty close on the scoreboard once the third quarter unfolded. Nevertheless, Tarleton State again went on a run to lead 39-27 while the Leathernecks struggled a bit with completing looks at the rim. As a whole, the third quarter was more of a defensive outing, as WIU only scored eight points, and Tarleton State added nine. Thorpe’s rebound, drawn foul, and made free throws happened before the final two minutes went scoreless for either team. The Texans remained in front, 39-29.

Thorpe, Zars, and Danni Nichols all initiated an aggressive start to the final period, as Western cut into the lead, 39-37. With just under five minutes remaining, Deets came in clutch to even the score at 41-41 after ringing in a three-pointer. Tarleton State retook the lead seconds later, followed by a stretch of traded points for 1.5 minutes. After Nichols swished in a pair at the free-throw line to tie things up once again, Zars gave WIU its first lead of the day on a free throw make of her own, 49-48. As time kept decreasing on the clock, the nail-biting contest continued when Alissa Dins scored inside to once again make it a tied ball game at 51-51 with 1:04 to go. Lutz would primarily complete the deed, as the senior guard made eight of nine tries at the charity stripe, allowing the Leathernecks to hold on for a suspenseful finish.

Nichols finished with a game-best 15 points, adding in four rebounds and two steals. Reaching a new season-high in both free throw makes and attempts (9-10), Lutz posted 14 rebounds, six rebounds, and two steals. Zars led the way in rebounds with nine (game-high), along with nine points. Playing 23 minutes off the bench, Deets chipped in nine points on 3-5 shooting from long range. Getting to the line worked best for the Leathernecks during the afternoon, going 19-26 as a whole.

Western continues its stay in Texas through Monday (Nov. 29), when it visits Incarnate Word for a 6 p.m. meeting.

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