Men’s basketball prepares for top seeded Coyotes
March 3, 2017
Filed under Sports
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Western Illinois men’s basketball (8-19, 5-11) is no stranger to Cinderella stories. After taking down Big 10 powerhouse Wisconsin last season, the Leathernecks hope to bring some of that magic back this weekend. The Cinderella hopefuls, Western, enter the conference tournament as the last seed, but no task is too big for the purple and gold.
The Leathernecks head into post season play as the eighth seed. That means Western has to take on number one seed, South Dakota (21-10, 12-4). The Coyotes have gotten the best of the Leathernecks in the teams’ matchups this season, but it has not been a cakewalk and Western intends to compete in this game too.
After the team’s last game, head coach Billy Wright was fired up about his team’s play. “When we are locked in and we execute at both ends of the floor for 40 minutes, we can compete with the best of them.”
The Leathernecks did not have their best night offensively or defensively. Western had 10 turnovers and gave up 92 points. Senior Mike Miklusak lead all scorers on one of his best nights with 24 points, followed by Garret Covington with 21. These scores seem high, but that is not the style the Leathernecks win by. Western also shot less than 50 percent from the field and were beat in rebounds, turnovers and steals.
“I think we’ve identified our keys for success, and it’s been pretty much the same throughout the year. We want to get stops on defense, and on offense, move the ball and share the ball,” Wright said. “Most importantly, (we have to) take care of the ball. We’re not into moral victories, and we want to make sure we have ourselves a great showing.”
However, if Western can pull off the ultimate upset and take down the Coyotes, they will have a good chance to advance to the final. The Leathernecks will play the winner of South Dakota State and Denver. Western has to be cheering for SDSU, since they split in their matchup this season, each winning on their respective home courts.
Denver got the best of Western in both matchups, but Western stayed competitive throughout the game.
If SDSU wins, it will be a battle of the two best scorers in the Summit League. Western’s own Garret Covington, who is second in points per game, will square off against conference leading scorer Mike Daum. When Covington and Daum played this season, the two split the leading scorer role in their respective matchup. Daum had the advantage on his home court, and Covington did the same. If the two can meet at a neutral site, the basketball Gods will be in attendance.
Covington has the hot hand for the Leathernecks. He is coming off a career-high 35 points in his last regular season game. If Western’s leading scorer can put together another performance like his last and his team follows, there is no reason that Western should not be able to make their own run in this year’s tournament.
Western squares off with the Coyotes this Saturday at 6 p.m. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.