Men’s basketball looks to stay hot at home

Christopher Bean, Assistant Sports Editor

MACOMB, Ill. — The Western Illinois University will host the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks tonight at 4:30 p.m. The game was originally set for Thursday night, but due weather conditions the game was postponed one day later. Both teams will enter the contest with an identical 8-13 record, but Western holds a one game lead in conference play with a 3-5 record in the Summit League.

Both teams faced off on Jan. 12, in North Dakota, the Fighting Hawks soared to a 71 –65 victory over the Necks and outscored them 34-22 in the second half. The Necks hurt themselves, shooting 27.6 percent from the field and only made one three on a 10 attempt. But it didn’t start that way for Western, shooting a fantastic 67.9 percent from the field and 4-5 from beyond the arc, scoring 43 first half points. Western had four players score nine or more points, but only got seven points from their bench. The Fighting Hawks flipped the script in the second half shooting 63.8 percent and going 2-2 from three and overcame a six-point deficit after the first half.

Since then, the Necks have gone on a mini two game-winning streak, defeating Fort Wayne, 86-57 and South Dakota, 65-59. Western 29-point win was impressive because at the time the Mastodons were tied for first place in the Summit. The six-point win in Vermillion snapped an 11-game losing streak on the road in the Summit. It looked like it was going to extend to 12 games, when they were down 50-39 with 10:52 left in the game. The Necks arguably played their best defense down the stretch and outscored the Coyotes 26-9 at the 9:35 mark. The game was tied at 56 when sophomore point guard Kobe Webster made a layup to break the tie. Kobe wasn’t down yet, with 50 seconds left in the ballgame Webster was looking to hit the dagger and made a huge three-pointer with one second on the shot clock, putting the Leathernecks up five and securing the lead for good.

Since North Dakota defeated Western, things have not gone their way since losing their last three games. They lost the first two games by a combined six points, and only lost to the best team in the Summit, The South Dakota State Jack Rabbits, 78-74. Their last game was last Wednesday and fell to South Dakota, 70-56. The only spark plug for the Fighting Hawks was junior guard, Marlon Stewart, who scored 22 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists.

Players to watch out for on the court today is senior forward Conner Avants. Avants leads the league in field goal percentage, shooting at a remarkable 61.7 percent. He is also tied for 15th averaging 12.3 a game and is right behind his teammate senior guard Cortez Seales, who averages 12.4 points a game. Junior guard Billy Brown is fourth in the league from behind the arc, shooting 45 percent.

For the Necks, Webster is fifth in the league in scoring averaging 17.6 a game. Senior center Gilbeck can do it all for the Necks. He’s fourth in rebounds and field goal percentage. Not only does he lead the league in blocks but also is the nation’s leader in blocking shots.

Since the game was moved backed one day, the Leathernecks will play North Dakota and North Dakota State on back-to-back days. They will have a chance to move to .500 in the Summit. Every game matters this time of the year because the worst team in the Summit will not make the league tournament.

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