Story Courtesy of Western Illinois Athletic Department…
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Another dogfight involved Western Illinois women’s basketball (8-2, 0-0) on Tuesday night (Dec. 7), taking place on the road this time. Matched up with an SIUE (3-4, 0-0) team that utilized a hard-nosed defensive press, WIU held on for a 96-93 win.
Jada Thorpe exceeded a recently-set career-high during the evening, totaling a game-best 27 points, along with five rebounds and three assists. The redshirt sophomore guard plugged in 17 free throw attempts, which is tied for fourth-highest in the program’s single-game records.
“Road wins are big, especially playing against a good team who played well,” said WIU head coach JD Gravina. “They have played such a tough schedule, and were ready to battle. We did a phenomenal job against their press and played well offensively. Defensively, we have to stay a little more locked in.”
Back-to-back post buckets from Evan Zars opened the scoring for WIU, and a Danni Nichols free throw made it 5-4 after the first two minutes. Looks around the paint fell through for SIUE, leading to the Cougars taking a 10-7 lead shortly after. An open triple from Thorpe allowed Western to regain the lead, 13-11, right before the first media timeout. The Leathernecks did well in drawing a few fouls, rebounding, and Zars continued to be a force inside. Anna Deets swished two free throws as WIU took the first, 21-18.
SIUE tied the game right away once the second quarter started, followed by a traditional three-point play. A handful of points were traded before Zars tied the score again on a lay-in, 27-27. The back-and-forth continued, with Nichols making a pair of scoring plays. However, SIUE went ahead again, 34-33, with under five minutes in the frame. Deets and Kennedy Flanagan combined for seven quick points in a short stretch, keeping WIU just behind, 41-40. The period was especially a story of drawn fouls, led by Thorpe’s successful slashes, and WIU made seven of nine field goals late. Nevertheless, SIUE used balanced scoring to keep a slight lead after the first 20 minutes, 48-44.
The Cougars stayed confident after the halftime break, but WIU had an answer with the dangerous combo of Nichols and Thorpe. The Leathernecks made each of its first five attempts, happening inside the arc. Thorpe powered through for a finish-plus-foul midway in the quarter, giving Western a 61-57 lead. Elizabeth Lutz triggered a timely three-pointer, and two Leatherneck layups bumped up the advantage to 68-60. A few more buckets from Thorpe ended the third, with WIU staying in front, 74-64.
Western’s momentum spilled into the final period, with things clicking for the team in several areas. Lutz and Mallory McDermott pulled up from deep to make it 88-76. Still, SIUE’s fight did not diminish, cutting the deficit to single digits. Suffering through a scoring drought through more than two minutes, WIU only led by four after the Cougars nailed a falling three-pointer. Completed takes to the rim and forced misses ended the night in a third-straight team victory.
Nichols played the most minutes of any Leatherneck (37), scoring 25 points. Zars pieced a line of 14 points (6-7 shooting), eight rebounds, and four assists. Lutz came alive in the second half to end with 16 points, six rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
Fans can catch Western back home on Saturday (Dec. 11) when they host the Panthers of Greenville University at 2 p.m. CT.