Starting the season on the right foot was always on the minds of the Western Illinois women’s basketball team members — even if it technically wasn’t part of the season.
And the exhibition game also gave the players a chance to play against another team, rather than just themselves.
“We’re always going against each other with similar lineups,” said senior forward Sophie Reichelt. “This gives us practice to play with each other and see who works well going against a different defense instead of our own teammates.”
Playing against a different defense seemed to work well for the Leathernecks, as they blew past the William Woods Owls for an 80-41 exhibition victory on Friday at Western Hall.
“This is crucial to give us more of a variety,” Reichelt said.
Leathernecks head coach JD Gravina saw what he expected from his team, despite struggling to get the offense rolling in the first quarter, after which the Leathernecks trailed 13-11.
“We got off to a slow start, but I thought we were getting good shots early,” Gravina said. “I was proud of the way the girls didn’t seem to question themselves.”
Confidence is something Gravina has stressed in practice to this point.
“That’s been a big point of emphasis, and they continue to play with confidence and push the ball,” Gravina said. “I think we’re that type of team. If we have a good two and a half minutes, that can win us a game.
“I really like the way we pushed the ball.”
The Leathernecks had its offense figured out when the second quarter began. Reichelt led the way with 10 points in the quarter, en route to her 13-point finish, and knocked down two shots from beyond the arc.
The 6-foot-2 Reichelt also finished the game with 12 rebounds, and is expected
to play a bigger role on the inside this year following the departure of Ashley Luke to Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“What I wanted from Sophie is what you saw tonight,” Gravina said. “I thought she really rebounded well. I loved when she rebounded and pushed the floor. We are so hard to guard when she does that.”
The Leathernecks led 40-28 at halftime, and a second half offensive explosion followed, as they outscored the Owls 40-13 over the final 20 minutes.
It also helped Western’s case that they forced 36 turnovers in the game as well.
“I think we can definitely use that to our advantage,” said sophomore point guard Emily Clemens, who scored 15 points on a 6-10 shooting performance. “We’re pretty undersized across the boards, so I think if we get up with defense intensity, that can transfer over into making shots.”
Switching to 10-minute quarters in games, as opposed to previously playing 20-minute halves, is a transition the Leathernecks aren’t too concerned with.
Sophomore Michelle Farrow, who led the game with 16 points with four 3-pointers, said the new rules help them keep a fast-paced offense.
“It changes the tempo of the game a little bit, but I still think we were able to play
fast and that’s what we want to do,” Farrow said. “It keeps us fresh.”
The Leathernecks will play in one more exhibition game, against Truman State on Nov. 5, before opening up the regular season against Central Methodist on Nov. 13.