Western Illinois women’s basketball has potential. We’ve seen that in the 78-74 victory over Ohio Valley Conference favorite Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, and also taking a ranked Iowa team to overtime.
That last one was a game that the Leathernecks feel they should have in the win column. They played their hearts out and only made one mistake defensively in the second half that ultimately led to the Hawkeye three that sent the game to OT.
Yet, recently we’ve seen what can happen when the loose balls don’t go Western’s way, and when the 3-pointers aren’t falling. The Leathernecks are going to be competitive this year, but at times they may be a few possessions behind, ultimately leading to losses by around 10 points or less.
Southeast Missouri State on Elementary Day hit shots down the stretch that Western simply couldn’t answer. Against Towson in the first game of the North Florida Classic, the Tigers outshot the Leathernecks from behind the arc, which never happens. Not just the shooting, but there were loose balls and second chances that Towson got that they didn’t necessarily earn.
After the 83-77 loss to Towson, Leathernecks head coach JD Gravina said this Western team has a lot of talent but their intensity and passion needs to be at a 10. If the Leathernecks are at an intensity level of nine, then they will probably be around a 12-win team.
But if they play inspired and bump up the hustle that everyone knows they have, then the Leathernecks could be great and could finish much higher than fifth in the Summit League, where they were predicted to finish. There’s very little room for error when it comes to that; if the mentality is lacking, those 50-50 balls will not go Western’s way and will result in close losses like we’ve seen.
That’s what happens when a team lives and dies by the three ball. You’ll need to have as many chances as possible to get those outside shots to fall. Everyone at the beginning of the year was talking about the absence of Ashley Luke, and I want to put that talk to bed. She made a decision that was best for her, and in turn Western moved on to another style of basketball.
Without Luke, it opens up Michelle Maher to drive to the basket, and also provides a leadership role for Sophie Reichelt, who dominated in Florida. This type of fast, up-and-down-the-floor guard play is more up Coach Gravina’s alley.
Watch out for this Western Illinois women’s basketball team when it clicks.