The Western Illinois University women’s basketball team locked up the third seed in the Summit League with a 77-60 victory over the North Dakota State University Bison on the road last night.
Junior Olivia Braun broke the ice and scored the first bucket of the game with a floater off an Emily Clemens assist. Bison’s sophomore forward Autumn Ogden responded and scored the first basket for North Dakota State after a cold start for both teams. The Leathernecks and Bison combined for only four points through the first 3:30 of the game.
North Dakota State broke out of their slump after hitting two threes that gave them a 9-2 lead with 5:12 left in the first quarter. Braun and Clemens began to ignite with three minutes left in the first quarter and propelled Western’s offense. Braun sunk a midrange jumper that broke Western’s cold spell and Clemens followed by nailing a tough reverse layup that brought the Purple and Gold within six. The Leathernecks kept trampling back with a three-point basket from junior forward Taylor Higginbotham.
The Leathernecks took back the lead with one-minute left in the first quarter with a deep three from senior guard Morgan Blumer. Western finished the first quarter on a 7-0 run that rallied them to a 16-13 lead over the Bison.
The Bison opened up the second quarter firing on all cylinders due to freshman guard Michelle Gaislerova. She nailed two straight three pointers to swing the game back in North Dakota State’s favor. The back and forth battle continued as both teams looked outside and exchanged three pointers.
Western had trouble getting to the free throw line, which is an extremely uncharacteristic trait from the Purple and Gold, as they lead the Summit League in free throws, attempted this season. Clemens was the first Leatherneck to visit the line as it took 18 minutes for Western to get to the charity stripe.
Western nursed a one-point lead going into halftime after a physical, hard fought first half.
Clemens was the leading force for the Leathernecks in the first half with 13 points. Gaislerova led the pack for the Bison with 16 points at half.
Sophomore forward Reilly Jacobson scored the first basket of the second half and took a one-point lead over Western. However, the Leathernecks began to heat up and went on a 7-0 run to take a 42-34 lead. The Bison refused to lie down easily though as Gaislerova continued her hot shooting with another three, her fifth of the game, which closed the gap to 44-39. A three from senior guard Taylor Thunstedt put even more pressure on the Leathernecks, coming back within two.
The shooting ability of the Purple and Gold began to shine bright as senior guard Michelle Farrow and Blumer sunk two threes to put the Leathernecks back up eight. These baskets fueled a 10-0 scoring run that led them to their biggest lead of the night at 54-42.
The momentum continued to sway back and forth as NDSU went on a 7-0 run of their own to fight back into the game. The Bison couldn’t make a comeback though, and trailed by 10 with only one quarter to play.
Higginbotham broke out of her rough night to score the first basket of the fourth quarter for the Leathernecks. Braun followed her lead with a layup to give Western their largest lead of the game at 63-49.
Western’s tempo dominated the fourth quarter as they scored and defended at a very high level. Clemens controlled the pace of the game and finished with 24 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals en route to a 17 point victory on the road.