Courtesy of Western Illinois University Athletics Department
MACOMB, Ill. – The ‘tradition of tough’ was on heavy display during Wednesday evening (Dec. 22) by Western Illinois women’s basketball (11-2, 2-0), as the team hosted Omaha (5-6, 1-1) for a second Summit League test. Trailing by double-digits in the second half, Western clawed its way to an admirable 77-70 come-from-behind win to stay undefeated on its home floor.
The 8-0 clip in Western Hall is the Leathernecks’ best since the 2016-17 campaign.
It was a slow start for WIU early on, down 8-0 after the first four minutes. Evan Zars finally gave her squad its first bucket on a jumper from the short corner. Anna Deets and Alissa Dins checked in to brighten the offense, netting three-pointers to tie the margin at 19 even. A drawn foul and make from the charity stripe by Omaha had the Mavericks still narrowly in front, 20-19, after the first ten minutes.
In the second, Western took a slight lead shortly, but Omaha made a triple to tie things up again, 27-27. Led by Danni Nichols’ sweeps to the rim, WIU reached the bonus first in the second quarter, but a lot of later fouls proved detrimental. Dins added into the scoring column and Nichols had 11 points during the quarter after going scoreless in the first. The duo helped Western hang close, down by one at the break.
The game remained competitive once both teams stepped back onto the court after halftime, as Jada Thorpe stepped back for a three to make it 44-44. However, Omaha caught immediate fire in its paint points, starting with a 7-0 run that mounted into a 61-49 lead by the time the quick frame had ended. During that stretch, the Leathernecks struggled from the field, only making three of 15 attempts.
Refusing to back down, WIU made the final quarter one to remember for its fans. It started with an 11-4 run, boosted by Zars’ slick moves in the post. Nichols then seized complete control, pouring in a barrage of baskets in different ways. She and Zars would combine for 26 points in the final period, and Western got enough defensive stops while making its free throws (11-15) to secure another impressive victory.
Nichols tied her career-high in points (27) on a poised performance that included 13 of 15 free throw makes. The senior added five rebounds. Wednesday was a career night for Alissa Dins, who totaled a new personal best of 11 points. Zars was an all-around standout with 14 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. Thorpe chipped in 11 points and three rebounds.
Following a nine-day break for the holiday season, WIU opens up 2022 with a Jan. 1 home showing against league newcomer St. Thomas.