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Women’s basketball host ORU on senior night

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Women’s basketball host ORU on senior night

Taylor Higginbotham defends inside Western Hall.

Taylor Higginbotham defends inside Western Hall.

Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Taylor Higginbotham defends inside Western Hall.

Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Taylor Higginbotham defends inside Western Hall.

Kejuan Rucker, Courier Staff

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It will be an emotional evening in Western Hall this Saturday, as the Leathernecks go into battle with conference foe, Oral Roberts Golden Eagles. The theme is “Senior Night” as Leatherneck players, coaches and fans show their love and support for our lone senior, Taylor Higginbotham. Higginbotham is the only senior on the team this season, so everyone will be embracing her while she tries to keep her emotions bottled in and focuses on the game.

“This school has given me so much. It was always a huge dream of mine to play Division 1 basketball, and I got that chance thanks to coach Gravina and coaching staff.”

“It’s been a whole bunch of fun ever since I committed and got on campus. Knowing that I was able to give back and perform for the school and the community that has done so much for me is a pretty cool thing,” Higginbotham said.

She is not the only one trying to hold back tears. Gravina knows that senior night is an emotional time, especially for the lone senior. He has coached Higginbotham for four years, growing a bond with her on and off the court. Gravina explains how he’s watched her grow from her first year on the team, till now.

“She’s been such a big part of my life for the past four years. She’s seen me go from being a father of one to a father of three,” Gravina said. “In the past, I think she did not have to be that much of a leader because of many older athletes ahead of her. It’s hard for a player to step into that role her senior year, and I thought she’s done a really good job.”

Higginbotham has become a great leader indeed, yet she does not want all of the credit. She says that her teammates are significant in her success as a leader. Higginbotham knows the moments where she has to step up and lead the charge, but hopes her leadership is remembered by being a great teammate and friend.

“It’s really about being a good teammate first and good friend, and just hopes that the leadership shows through that.”

“It’s not about trying to be bossy or acting like you know what you are doing because I’m still learning too. There is always new stuff to learn and develop, so I just try to be the best advice giver.”

With emotions running high, the Leathernecks cannot look away from the fact that the Golden Eagles are looking to spoil senior night and move up in the conference. The last time these two teams faced off, Oral Roberts took one in a close game, defeating Western 68-64 in Oklahoma.

Higginbotham got a double-double in the game with 16 points and 10 boards; however, it was not enough to close out the fourth quarter. Golden Eagles were giving the Leathernecks a comfortable lead thanks to their sophomore guard Keni Jo Lippe. Lippe scored 14 of her 26 points in the second half,creating problems for the Leathernecks and securing a win for her team.

Furthermore, they were everywhere on the court, out rebounding the Leathernecks and getting 17 steals off 23 of our turnovers. Gravina can tell the team’s rebounding has gotten way better since they’ve played, so he plans to emphasize attacking their pressure to help minimize turnovers.

“I don’t like us to get scared of turning the ball over, but attacking their pressure, which will help minimize our turnovers.”

“I think we’ve gotten better (at our rebounding) since playing them, so I am hoping that will carryover. If our defensive rotations are a little bit better, that puts us in a better rebounding position ”

The Leathernecks were 2-3 in their first five games of the season. Now, they are 4-1 in their last five games and have played their best basketball at home, going 8-4 on the season. We sit in third place in the Summit League, hoping to clinch this spot heading towards March Madness. Following this matchup, they are on the road next week for games against fourth seeded Denver and top seeded South Dakota State. Gravina knows his team can compete with just about anyone if the shots are falling.

Nonetheless, this Saturday will be a thriller! Leatherneck fans are expected to be loudest we have been this season. Despite the hype of this conference rivalry, it is more so about the fact that we will see Higginbotham play her very last game in Western Hall. Tip-off begins at 4:30 p.m. as we expect the entire city of Macomb and Leatherneck fans all over to attend this homegoing celebration for our lone senior!

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Women’s basketball host ORU on senior night