Women’s basketball seeks winning streak


Taylor Higginbotham lines up for a free throw

David Koier, Courier Staff

The 2018-19 basketball season hasn’t been an easy one for head coach JD Gravina and the Western Illinois Leathernecks women’s basketball team. After graduating six seniors, including star guard Emily Clemens, the Leathernecks were looking at a young team for the 2018-19 campaign.

The young team hasn’t been able to gain much momentum in the wins column or the Summit League standings. Sitting at a 7-12 overall record and a 3-3 conference record, the Purple and Gold are seated sixth in the nine-team Summit League.

Things have been looking up, however, for the team winning back-to-back games against Summit League competitors North Dakota and Omaha.

This past Wednesday’s win over the Mavericks of Omaha saw senior guard Taylor Higginbotham lead the Leathernecks in scoring with 20 points, going 4-9 beyond the three-point line. Defensively, Higginbotham and junior forward Kyra Washington led the Leathernecks with seven

rebounds apiece while junior guard Olivia Kaufmann recorded five steals on the night, leading both teams in that category.

The Leathernecks are looking to keep their winning streak alive this Saturday when they face off against the Mastodons of Purdue Fort Wayne at Western Hall. The Mastodons are currently sitting at the bottom of the Summit League with an overall 4-13 record, while not winning a single game in their five conference matchups.

Leading the Leatherneck offense this season is the strong veteran leadership of Kaufmann and Higginbotham. Kaufmann has been a point scoring machine this season, not only leading her team in the category, but also placing herself in the top five in the Summit.

Kaufmann ranks fifth when it comes to points per game, posting a dominating 15.5. She also ranks fourth in both total points and field goals scoring 294 points off of 99 made field goals.

Higginbotham on the other hand, has been very productive from beyond the arc this season. Draining 40 three pointers this season has not only placed her fourth on the Summit League leaderboards, but the senior has also broken the three-point record for the Leatherneck basketball program.

After Sunday afternoon’s game against Omaha, Higginbotham sits atop the Leatherneck record books with 222 career three pointers made, edging out alum Michelle Maher who totaled 221 in her career at Western. Higginbotham currently sits with 226 and continues to show why she’s one of the most dangerous shooters in the Summit League.

The two seniors have also showed they can not only dominate on offense but can be

just as dangerous on defense. Kaufmann and Higginbotham lead the Summit League in steals with 54 and 36 respectively.

Higginbotham has also proven herself as a dominant rebounder, recording 7.6 rebounds per game (fourth in the Summit) and 144 total boards this season (second in the Summit).

While Kaufmann and Higginbotham are dominant on offense for the Leathernecks, there is a Mastodon who stands in the way of the scorers. Fort Wayne sophomore center Jaelencia Williams has placed herself on the leaderboards with her 22 blocks.

Higginbotham and Kaufmann along with the Leathernecks hope to keep their winning streak alive against Williams and the Mastodons this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Western Hall.

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