The Western Illinois men’s basketball team got conference play going on Saturday, December 29, with a huge win over South Dakota as it attempts to put an uneven non-conference schedule in the rearview mirror. That journey continues on Thursday, January 2, as the Leathernecks will head to Fargo to take on North Dakota State in the second half of a men’s/women’s double header.
WIU used perhaps its most well-rounded scoring attack in the win over USD with all 5 starters cracking double digits, and they will have to hope that type of momentum continues against a stingy Bison defense that allows just a tad over 60 points per game. If they continue to shoot the ball as well as they did against the Coyotes (44% from 3) they should be able to stay competitive against what is a much improved NDSU side.
Defensively, the key for WIU will be stopping the combination of Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward. The two combine to average nearly 30 points per game, with an extremely impressive inside-out approach. Ward does most of his damage on the inside, with a 49% percentage shooting from the field, while Shahid leads the team in made 3s and 3-point percentage with 34 and 35% respectively. Rocky Kreuser and Ward on the boards will cause problems for WIU as well, with the two each responsible for more than 6 rebounds per game, so positioning in the paint will be extremely important for James Claar and company.
WIU clearly has the offensive capabilities to keep up with and outscore the Bison, but the NDSU defense will be stiff and they come in with a scoring attack that will test WIU’s at-times-leaky defense. Tip-off from the Fargo Dome is set for 8 PM Thursday night.