MACOMB, IL – Another furious second half comeback fell short for the Western Illinois men, who lost to Oral Roberts 82-73 in the regular season home finale on Saturday at Western Hall.
The Leathernecks trailed by as many as 24 points in the second half but were able to cut the deficit to six when Alec Rosner stole the ball from Oral Roberts’ Connor Vanover. Rosner raced to the basket but the 7-foot-5 Vanover was able to get his eighth block of the game and preserve the six-point advantage. ORU then scored its 14th second-chance point of the night on the ensuring possession, pushing the advantage safely back to eight points and Western Illinois (15-11 overall, 8-7 in Summit League play) could never get closer.
It was a slow start for the Leathernecks as Oral Roberts built a 21-point point halftime lead, 51-30 after making 21-34 (61.8 percent) from the field. But in the second half, Western Illinois was able to get going behind a season-high 29 points from Alex Rosner and 23 points from Trenton Massner.
“Going into the UMKC game, Trenton wasn’t his best, wasn’t feeling the way he needed to and Alec didn’t really get going, he made one bucket against UMKC, so our timing was off, but that’s part of the game,” WIU head coach Rob Jeter said. “You have to fight through injuries and when you’re not feeling your best, but tonight, you see what they can do, we were just playing the best team in the league, any other game, tonight probably gets us through those final 20 minutes but not against the best team in the league.
“It was good to see Alec, especially since this is our last game in The Hall and those two guys, and those guys have not sat much, so they’re doing a lot for us, so those two seniors, that was good to see.”
Western Illinois’ other senior who was honored Saturday night, Vuk Stevanic added eight points while KJ Lee scored six.
The Leathernecks went 29-64 from the field for the game (45.3 percent) and 12-32 (37.5) but allowed 14 second-chance points for Oral Roberts which did enough down the stretch to win.
The loss dropped Western Illinois out of third place in the Summit League and into a tie for fourth. The Leathernecks finish out the year on the road, playing at St. Thomas next Saturday, then at North Dakota and North Dakota State the following week to close out the regular season.
“I don’t know if that’s good for us, we want to play right now, what we told ourselves is, we put ourselves in a good position to be in the top four of the league, the problem is we put ourselves in a position that’s very hard after we let a few slip away when we needed to protect,” Jeter said. “I feel good about the position we’re in, but now we have to go on the road and we’re going to need a special effort mentally and physically to get it done because we’re trying to do something that has not been done here in a decade, have a winning record in the league and finish in the top third of the league.
“We’re up there, but we have some serious uphill climbing to stay there.”
Copy provided by Western Athletic Communications