Basketball looks to get back on track

MACOMB. Ill. — The Western Illinois University Leathernecks (2-4, 0-0 Summit) are happy to return home after three straight losses on the road.

The first two losses were only by a basket each, but the final game of the road stretch ended in a 73-49 beat down given out by the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten). The Leathernecks record may fool most fans who haven’t been watching closely this year. The loss to Nebraska is the only game the ‘Necks haven’t competed in this season. This includes a match-up against the University of Creighton Blue Jays (5-1, 0-0) of the Big East. The Blue Jays had to sweat it out until the final minutes before they finally beat Western 78-67.

Playing on the road has been Western’s downfall dating back to last season. Their last road win came on November 22, 2017 against the Cougars of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (1-3, 0-0 OVC), who happens to be their upcoming opponent. Western comes into the game with confidence because they lead the all-time series 7-2, and they beat SIU-e last year in Edwardsville on a game winning three. A lot of the main pieces from that Western team is still intact this year including last year leading scorer, Sophomore Kobe Webster. Webster is leading the team in scoring again this year averaging 16.3 points per game. He’s struggled to shoot the three so far this year, but based on his freshman season, it’s likely he’ll turn that around, especially against the Cougars who allow opponents to shot 38 percent from three.

The Leathernecks have three other scorers averaging double figures this year, most notably starting shooting guard Issac Johnson. Like Webster, Johnson is also a sophomore, his 13.7 points a game so far this year is an uptick from the seven points he averaged last year. Juniors Jeremiah Usiosefe and CJ Duff are also averaging double figures this year.

Edwardsville is not short on scorers either, they too have four players averaging double digits this season. The top scorer being a fiery point guard from my alumni high school, junior Tyresse Williford. Williford paces the Cougars with 15.8 points per game, he and the Cougars are coming into this game after capturing their first win of the season. Williford had 20 points, six assists and six rebounds in that game but the Necks defense will be tougher to score on because they are anchored by the number one shot blocker in the country, Brandon Gilbeck. Gilbeck who averages four blocks and eight rebounds a game, keeps opponents out of the paint which is where SIU-e loves to attack, mainly because they’re only shooting 26 percent from behind the arc this year.

Western is hoping playing at home puts an end to their three game losing streak. They are 2-0 at home this year averaging 89.5 points per game. To win this game Western has to convert from the three point arc where they been mediocre so far this season, they also have to keep the cougars out the lane, forcing them to take jump shots which is SIU-e’s weakness.

The game is set for tomorrow at 7pm inside of Western Hall. It can also be seen on ESPN+ or listened to on WRMS radio station (94.3).

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