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Necks stunned by SEC in season opener

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Necks stunned by SEC in season opener

Taylor Higginbotham in her defensive stance at a home game inside Western Hall last season.

Taylor Higginbotham in her defensive stance at a home game inside Western Hall last season.

File Photo

Taylor Higginbotham in her defensive stance at a home game inside Western Hall last season.

File Photo

File Photo

Taylor Higginbotham in her defensive stance at a home game inside Western Hall last season.

Taylor Jordan, Courier Staff

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MACOMB, Ill. — The Western Illinois women’s basketball team fought hard in their season opener against 16th ranked Missouri on Tuesday night, but ended up falling 89-64.

“We only gave up five offensive rebounds in the first half and that is extremely encouraging for us,” head coach JD Gravina said. “If we can neutralize teams on the boards that can really help us. Missouri is physical and can get to the basket. I thought we had a lot of good takes, but everything is harder. A layup is harder, a wide open three is harder and we didn’t finish as many as we probably needed to.”

Redshirt junior Annabel Graettinger, took to the basket for a layup, to tie up the game 5-5 before Mizzou went on a 7-0 run into the first media timeout and led the Leathernecks 18-8 after the first quarter.

Senior Taylor Higginbotham, hit back-to-back triples to open up the second quarter and cut the lead to 18-14 with 8:39 left in the second quarter. Graettinger hammered a three-pointer on the next possession to make it a one-point game. Tigers firing deep as Lauren Aldridge connected on a three for a 28-21 lead with 4:35 to go in the first half. A minute later, Olivia Kauffmann had a fall as the Leathernecks trailed 30-25. Missouri secured the first half with a 35-27 lead.

Towards the end of the third quarter with 7:41 remaining, Kaufmann finished a layup. WIU was trailing 39-30, before Aldridge hammered down a trifecta from the top of the key at the halfway point of the quarter for a 48-35 lead. Kaufmann converted a three-point play with 1:45 to go in the third, as the Leathernecks were behind 57-42. After three quarters of play, Western Illinois were behind 61-44 after three quarters of play.

In the fourth quarter, the Tigers built up a 20-point lead. Akira Levy hit a mid-range jumper with 7:39 left, while Grace Gilmore answered on a triple to trim the lead to under 20 at 68-51. Missouri began to coast and All-SEC First Teamer Sophie Cunningham surpassed 30 points on the night, after getting down a layup while being fouled at the four-minute mark for an 83-59 advantage. Western battled till the end but came up short with a final score of 89-64.

Graettinger and Kaufmann both scored 18 points while Graettinger led the team with six rebounds. Kaufmann’s 18 points are the second most in her career and six made field goals is also second in her career. Gilmore scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds, as Higginbotham rounded out the double-digit scoring with 10 points.

Tuesday night’s game marked the first time in program history since Dec. 11, 1997, that a Power Five team played in Western Hall, and Western Illinois won that game, 68-66 (OT). The attendance of 1,227 ranks seventh in program history.

The Leathernecks will return back to Western Hall this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. where they will be facing the Drake University Bulldogs.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Necks stunned by SEC in season opener