Men’s basketball prepares for South Dakota

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Delo Bruster dribbles on his way to the paint.

Christopher Bean

MACOMB, Ill. -The Western Illinois Leathernecks 10-10 (1-6) will start their second half of the conferences looking for their second win against the second best team in the Summit League, the University of South Dakota Coyotes 18-6 (6-2). The tip-off will begin this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Western Hall.

The Purple and Gold are looking to have a fresh start in the Summit, after losing six out of seven games, all by 11 or more points. Their only win came from Fort Wayne in a thrilling overtime win, when freshman Kobe Webster threw the game winning shot, with 1.1 seconds left in overtime.

The Leathernecks look forward to coming back home after losing two on the road last week. Playing at home has been arguably one of their strongest suits with a 10-3 record at home this year. However, it won’t be an easy task, as the Coyotes have been a consistently tough team to beat this season. Junior Matt Mooney leads the Coyotes, averaging 17.7 points a game, and earning himself a 5th leading score in the league.

The Coyotes are coming off an 84-68 loss to the University of Denver Pioneers.  The 16-point loss tied their biggest margin of losses this year. The other loss was to Duke University Blue Devils earlier this season. The Coyotes have not lost any back-to-back games yet, and are 5-0 overall following a loss, making it even more challenging for Western.

Both teams have faced one another back on Jan. 3, in South Dakota. It wasn’t a memorable game for either offense. The Leathernecks shot a season low of 32.7 percent (18-55) from the court, and only 16.7 percent beyond the arc (4-24). The Coyotes shot a season low of 15 percent beyond the arc (3-20), and only shot 33.3 percent (19-57) from the court. Western trailed 46-42 with 4:16 to go in the game. Mooney gained 11 points, which ended up putting away the Purple and Gold. The Coyotes came off with a 62-50 win.

The biggest key of this game is containing Mooney. His perfect seven of seven from the free throw line, makes him one player Western will have to watch carefully.  For the Leatherneck’s, Webster has scored 17 or more points in every conference game. He is also third in the league with four assists in a game.

With it being the last month of the season, look for the Leathernecks to play energized basketball. Yes, they are at the bottom of the league, but they still have meaningful games to play this year. They are also playing four out of their seven remaining regular season games at home, where they have strived this year. If Western can find a way to beat the Coyotes, it could just get their
season started.

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