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Women’s basketball bounces back at home

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Women’s basketball bounces back at home

Taylor Higginbotham dribbles the ball down court inside Western Hall.

Taylor Higginbotham dribbles the ball down court inside Western Hall.

GOLEATHERNECKS.COM

Taylor Higginbotham dribbles the ball down court inside Western Hall.

GOLEATHERNECKS.COM

GOLEATHERNECKS.COM

Taylor Higginbotham dribbles the ball down court inside Western Hall.

Titus Perez, Assistant Sports Editor

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MACOB, Ill. — After a disappointing loss on January 26 to the University of South Dakota Coyotes, Junior guard Olivia Kaufman and Senior guard Taylor Higginbotham each performed well to help lead Western Illinois University Leathernecks (9-13, 5-4 Summit) defeat the North Dakota University Fighting Hawks(8-14, 3-6 Summit), 111-90.

The Lady Necks leading scorer on the season, Kaufmann matched her career high with 28 points in the game while Higginbotham added 23. Higginbotham hit four of the 15 threes Western made in the game, 15 threes is the most Western have hit in conference play thus far this season. Western offense was clicking all game, the 111 points they scored was the second most scored against a NCAA division one opponent in the last ten years.

“We were able to counteract them being unstoppable around the basket by really spacing them out. They had a really hard time guarding us without fouling, and when we shoot it well like that and spacing is good like it was, I think we’re a really good offensive team. This was a fun up-and-down game” said Western Illinois head coach JD Gravina after the game.

The game got started with Taylor Higginbotham knocking down a jump shot to give Western the early lead however this was countered by a layup from the game’s leading scorer Julia Fleecs (33 points). For the rest of the quarter, both teams would go back and forth, North Dakota did happen to capture a seven point lead in the quarter but the Purple and Gold fought back to cut it to five, 22-17 at the end of the first. The Fighting Hawks took the lead behind a strong quarter from Fleecs, her 14 points set the tone for the game early. The second quarter had different results as the Leathernecks would not be denied, they outscored the fighting Hawks 27-12 in the second quarter to take the lead at halftime, 44-34.

The dominating quarter was spearheaded by Kaufmann. She scored 11 points in the quarter, using her speed and quickness to get to the basket as well as knocking down the three point shot. Western’s lead at the half can be contributed to their great shooting, as they knocked down 54 percent of their shots (50 percent from three) holding North Dakota to 41 percent. The third quarter was more of the same for the Necks. Kaufmann scored the first six points forWestern in the quarter as they held a 48-36 lead with 8:49 left to play in the quarter. North Dakota couldn’t make up any ground over the next couple minutes, the Leathrnecks then begin to slip further away. Pushing their lead to 69-50, on a pair of free throws from Higginbotham with 2:24 remaining in the quarter. The Fighting Hawks put a small dent in the lead at the end of the quarter making it, 78-62. A made three by junior guard Avery Hamm to begin the quarter pushed the lead back to 19 for the Leathernecks. Later in the game, Western found themselves up 21 points after junior guard Annabel Graettinger hit a three with 7:54 left to play in the game. North Dakota would then go on a 12-0 run to narrow the lead to nine, 87-78 with 5:16 left in the game. That run would be their last cry, the Purple and Gold answered North Dakota with a fury of their own. It began with Graettinger hitting back to back threes, Fleecs scored a layup for North Dakota in between those threes giving Western a 93-80 advantage with 4:23 remaining. Higginbotham scored seven points over the next few minutes including nailing a three with 1:29 left in the game, pushing the lead to 108-88 and sealing the victory for the Leathernecks.

This win for Western completed their first sweep of a conference opponent this season. The victory is a benefit of their red hot offense. They shot 10 of 15 from three in the second half, hitting 68 percent of their shots in the half overall, 61 percent for the game. The Fighting Hawks put up a solid effort out. They out rebounded the Necks and got great scoring from Fleecs and Lexi Klabo (24 points), still the Necks were too much to handle at home. This win marks the Necks fourth in their last five games. The Necks are back in action on the road February 6 against Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Women’s basketball bounces back at home