Eagles lay 75-78 egg on ‘Necks

Matthew Johnson

Most teams do better at home, but that’s not the case with WIU. Poor play continued to bother the Leathernecks last night in a 78-75 loss to Northeastern Illinois University.As with the past few games, WIU (12-8, 7-4) dominated throughout — leading at one point by 23 — but lagging defense and missed clutch free throws allowed the Golden Eagles (13-7, 6-4) to even up the season series at 1-1 … and they did it without their leading scorer, Andrell Hoard.

Hoard, who is averaging 21.3 points per game, sat on the bench the entire game for missing a practice three days ago. But, according to NEIU head coach Rees Johnson, this absence might have helped the team.

“(Andrell’s absence) made the rest of the guys realize that they’ve got to pick up too sometimes,” Johnson said. “I think when you have a player as good as Andrell, you have a tendency to watch him.”

The Golden Eagles took the lead at 75-74 for the first time in the second half with 36 seconds left in the game on a three-pointer by the hot-handed Mark Heidersbach, who was six of eight from beyond the arc.

WIU’s David Kutcher quickly tied the game at 75, making the front-end of a pair of free throws.

But the joy was short-lived as NEIUs other go-to man, Brad Bestor, broke free off a double screen and drained a trey with 7 seconds remaining.

“I figured if I’m going to shoot this I’ve got to make it or else we’re losing,” the freshmen Bestor said after the game.

He and his other teammates played above and beyond the level they are normally asked to play. This had their coach happy.

“I think that we showed a great amount of heart and that’s what we’ve been searching for since the first part of the season,” Johnson said.

While the Golden Eagles have found what they’ve been looking for, the ‘Necks are still looking for answers. This is the fourth home game in a row that the ‘Necks have played pitifully.

“I was very disappointed with the team’s play in the second half,” WIU head coach Jim Kerwin said. “We blew a 23-point lead — what can I say? It was embarrassing.”

If one would want to point fingers for the loss, they might aim the way of Clint Ford, who had seven turnovers, and Tony Ackerman, who emulated Shaq with his 1-6 shooting from the foul line.

Ford and Janthony Joseph both had 17 points in the loss. The ‘Necks remain tied for second place in the Mid-Con with the University of Buffalo and chasing the Crusaders of Valparaiso University for the conference title. Second place is becoming quite a familiar place for the ‘Necks who have finished runners-up to Valpo the last two years.

The ‘Necks desperately need something to help them out of the rut they are currently in. The ‘Necks will see if they can break the home hex Saturday when they face Chicago State University at 7:35 p.m. in Western Hall.

“We will work the team harder in practice and move on from here,” Kerwin said. “We have a game Saturday with Chicago State to prepare for, so we have to move on.