Macomb, IL- On Saturday evening the Western Illinois University Leathernecks 8-12 (4-3) defeated the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons 4-14 (0-6) 73-59.
In the first six minutes of the game both teams were exchanging baskets. Junior point guard Olivia Kaufmann hit a three with 3:58 to go in the first half, giving Western a 14-13 lead. Western’s offense didn’t look back, ending the quarter on a 17-3 run and giving them a 26-16 lead after the first.
In the second quarter, Western didn’t have the success on offense as they did in the first, only scoring nine points, but it didn’t matter because their defense picked up where they left off. They only gave up eight points in the second quarter, and 11 points in the last 14:53 of the half. The Leathernecks carried a 35-24 lead into the half.
The Leathernecks went on a 7-0 run to start the second half to take a 42-24, giving them their largest lead of the game. The Mastodons didn’t lay over, as they went on a 7-0 run, cutting the lead back to eleven. Both teams scored 20 in the third quarter, and Western took a 55-44 with one quarter left.
The Mastodons came out firing cutting the Leatherneck lead to 4, just 2 minutes and 18 seconds into the fourth. The Necks held a 58-54 with 7:12 to go in the game. The score stayed the same until 4:15 when redshirt freshman Danni Nichols made a layup to put the necks up by six. Nichlos scored eight straight points and gave the Necks a nine-point lead with 2:42 left to play. Twenty-five seconds later, Junior guard Kyra Washington hit the dagger, giving Western a 67-55 lead.They would go on to win 73-59 expanding their winning streak to three.
Four out of the five Leathernecks starters scored in double figures, (Danni Nichols, Higginbotham, Annabel Graettinger, and Kaufmann) led by Nichols who scored a career high 21 points. She also went a perfect 10-10 from inside the arc, as her only two misses came from behind the arc. Senior leader Higginbotham scored 16 points and secured a team high nine rebounds. Olivia Kaufmann was outstanding as well, not only was she great on offense scoring 13 points and dishing out 8 eightassists, but she also did it on the other end getting seven steals. Kaufmann also had 17 points, nine assists, six rebounds and five steals against Omaha earlier in the week, earning Summit League player of the week.
After a very slow and unexpected start to the season, Western is now fourth in the Summit with a 4-3 record and riding a three-game winning streak. The Leathernecks next game is Saturday against the first place South Dakota Coyotes in Vermillion. This is a statement game for Western to prove they’re not done dominating the Summit.