‘Necks unable to celebrate new year

Darren Miles

The new millennium has not been kind to the Leatherneck basketball team; they are winless so far in the new year. Their Saturday evening loss to UMKC capped off a sub-par break for the ‘Necks, whose record has dropped to 0-3 in the conference and 5-11 overall.After a promising 3-1 start, the team has only managed one win in their last seven games. They began this streak with a home loss to Eastern Illinois University Dec. 11. The ‘Necks were outshot 52.3 percent to 36.9 percent from the field and lost by a score of 82-66. WIU was led in scoring by junior center Fernando Coloneze with 18. The team had a brief break before traveling to Honolulu to play in the three-day Nike Festival.

They were narrowly defeated in their first game of the tournament by the undefeated Creighton University, 76-72. Both teams played virtually the same game, as they were closely matched in shooting percentage, three-point percentage and rebounding. Both teams also had three players score in double digits. The difference in the game came down to the charity stripe; Creighton hit 13-of-17 while WIU could only convert on 13-of-22.

The ‘Necks second game of the tourney was not as close as they were outmatched against host University of Hawaii. WIU lost 72-58, despite hitting 21 of 26 free throws. Hawaii had four players in double digits while WIU only managed one. The ‘Necks were led in scoring by Coloneze with 17.

The only bright spot of the tournament came during their final game of the tournament. WIU gave the team from Florida Atlantic University a man-sized beating. WIU had four players score in double digits and took the game 73-53. Two standouts from the game were senior guard Curtis Haggins, who scored 11, and freshman guard Matt Robins, who shot 4-of-6 from three-point range and had 14 points for the game. WIU’s two big men also stepped up with Juan Martinez scoring 17 and Coloneze added 15.

WIU’s next game was a conference opener at home against Chicago State University Monday. The 74-61 loss was the ‘Necks’ worst home loss since Jan. 19, 1998. This was also the third straight home loss since winning 16 straight, which dates back to last year. They were led in scoring and rebounding by senior center Chris Canaday with 14 and six, respectively. Free throws hurt WIU once again, as they only hit 12-of-21.

The ‘Necks fell to 0-2 in the conference and 5-10 overall with a home loss to Oral Roberts University Thursday. The ‘Necks could only manage 39.1 percent from the field, despite having three players in double digits. Senior forward Juan Martinez pulled in a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Bill Heisler added 12 points while Canaday stepped up once again and contributed 14.

Last Saturday WIU lost their third-straight conference loss against UMKC by a score of 66-58. The ‘Necks led by as many as 13 before giving up the lead to Kangaroos on a 17-0 run in the second half. Juan Martinez led the team in scoring once again with 16 points. WIU was barely edged out in rebounds, but they sent UMKC to the line 22 times to WIU’s 11.

The ‘Necks will try to end their losing streak Thursday as they travel to Ohio to take on conference rival Youngstown State University at 6:35 p.m.