The Western Illinois women’s basketball team headed to Northern Illinois for the annual Compass Challenge Tournament on Thursday, aiming to prove they reign supreme over the directional schools in the state. Unfortunately they fell a bit flat in the first round, falling 79-65 to Southern Illinois.
If Tuesday night represented what the Leathernecks can look like when their shots are falling, Thursday represented what they can look like when the shots do not. With marks of 43% from the field, 29% from 3 and 65% from the line, it was a difficult shooting night for WIU. Evan Zars led the way for the Leathernecks as their most efficient offensive player, with a career high 13 points, 10 rebounds and a block. Danni Nichols and Sam Pryor each recorded double digit nights with 10 points apiece for WIU, but that was about it for the production on offense. Olivia Kaufmann and Annabel Graettinger, the leaders from Tuesday’s win, combined to go 4-17 from the field for 15 points.
On the Southern side, 4 of their 5 starters ended the night in double figures, with McKenzie Silvey leading the charge with 15 points on 6-13 shooting. Abby Brockmeyer had a nice day down low as well, recording a 13 point, 11 rebound double-double on 5-9 from the field, while Nicole Martin racked up 9 rebounds as well as the Salukis out-rebounded WIU 44-30. 3-point shooting is really where Southern made its impact on the game, however, as the Salukis shot 43% on 30 attempts and had 6 different players record at least one made 3.
This was a competitive game up until the fourth quarter, as evidenced by the 10 ties and 17 lead changes over the course of the game. Southern’s ability to knock down open shots, and WIU’s cold shooting, led to a fourth quarter pull-away by the Salukis. This could, as well, easily be looked at as a symptom of the Leathernecks’ 5th game this season against Missouri Valley competition, routinely regarded as one of the toughest conferences in all of women’s college basketball. WIU has gone 1-4 in those contests and been outscored 407-337. With these games added to a non-league list that also includes road contests against Missouri and Purdue, it has been incredibly tough sledding for WIU.
WIU, sitting at an even 6-6 with the loss, will play in the third place game of the Compass Challenge on Friday, with the women taking on Eastern Illinois at 4:30 PM at Northern Illinois. SIU improved to 7-3 with the win here, and they will go on to play Northern Illinois in the Compass Challenge Championship game at noon from the NIU Convocation Center. This will wrap up non-league play for both teams, with WIU kicking off Summit League play on December 29 with a home matchup against South Dakota. SIU kicks off league play against Valparaiso on the road on January 3, after a neutral exhibition against William Woods on December 29 in Carbondale.