Defense saves Leathernecks

Tom Loftus Sports Editor

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If someone had told Jim Molinari before Saturday night’s game at South Dakota that his team would not hit a field goal during the game’s last 8:40, the veteran Western Illinois men’s basketball coach probably would have groaned, and assumed his team would suffer its fourth straight loss.

Such was not the case, however, although the Leathernecks needed some late defensive heroics from Terell Parks to survive their unusual second-half field goal drought.

Parks, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound junior forward, blocked a last-second 3-point try by Coyotes guard Louie Krogman, clinching a 47-45 Summit League victory over South Dakota on Saturday. The game was played before 2,069 fans at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Leatherncks (10-8, 5-5). The Coyotes, meanwhile, fell to 7-12, 2-8

Western took a commanding 32-21 lead at halftime, but South Dakota pecked away at the Leathernecks’ lead in the second half, finally pulling to within 2 points at 47-45 with 10 seconds left.

Krogman, a 6-foot-1, 191-pound senior, then pulled up for a 3-pointer and was blocked by Parks as the final buzzer sounded.

Freshman forward Obi Emegano led all scorers with 21 points, while senior guard Ceola Clark III, who entered the game ranked fifth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage, also finished in double figures (11) and made a trio of 3-pointers on the night.

Besides his game-winning block, Parks finished the game with 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 total blocks.

South Dakota was led by senior guard Charlie Westbrook who tallied 18 points and added 8 rebounds.

The two teams played to a 5-5 tie early, then Western bolted out to a 19-6 lead, thanks in part to Emegano and Clark. Emegano scored 9 of Western’s first 11 points, and Clark connected on his first two 3-point shot attempts during the stretch.

South Dakota crawled back to within 9 points twice during the remainder of the first half, but Western built its lead back up to 14 with two minutes left in the half.

The Coyotes were able to put together a small run to end the frame and cut Western’s lead to 11 at intermission.

The 11-point lead was the second-largest halftime lead the Leathernecks have managed against an NCAA Division I opponent this season.

Emegano continued his dominating play early in the second half, scoring the first 2 points of the period and giving the Leathernecks a 13-point advantage, 34-21.

The Coyotes then answered with a 6-0 run, cutting Western’s lead to 7, 34-27 with 15:24 left in regulation.

Emegano and the Leathernecks answered with 5 more points, while freshman guard Remy Roberts-Burnett added 2, extending Western’s lead to 11 at 41-30.

South Dakota was able to crawl back to within 3 points with just under four minutes to play in the game, but a pair of Emegano free throws gave Western its 5-point lead back, 46-41, with two minutes to play.

The Coyotes cut into Western’s lead again with under a minute to play, this time pulling to within just 2 points on a layup by Westbrook.

South Dakota forced a jump ball with nine seconds on the clock and regained possession, forcing the Leathernecks to attempt a game-winning defensive stand.

The Coyotes inbounded the ball and Krogman launched his game-winning attempt from the top of the key, but Parks notched his fourth block of the night to seal the win.

Western finishes up its road trip at Nebraska-Omaha on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

– Western Illinois Media Services contributed to this report.



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