Mens basketball ends tough 10-21 season against NDSU in Summit League tournament semi-final

Bradley Piros , Sports Editor


While most students were either at home or on vacation with family and friends, the Western Illinois University men’s basketball team shocked The Summit League with a never before seen upset.

The Leathernecks came into the tournament as the No. 8 seed, facing them up against a bigger and better South Dakota State team. Western became the first team in the tournament’s history to upset a No. 1 in the first round winning 79-76.

Moving on to the semi-finals for the first time since the 2012-2013 season, the Leathernecks took on the North Dakota State University Bison. They lost 76-73 in heartbreaking fashion.

Western was able to get two three-point attempts in the last 20 seconds to try and tie the game, but they just didn’t fall. Instead the Leathernecks ended their historic run after making many people believe they could go all the way.

That’s the best thing about the tournament, anything can happen. Everyone wrote off the Leathernecks after a disappointing 10-21 season and 4-12 conference record. The more depressing stat is their 2-14 away record. The leathernecks are better at home but not by much going 7-6 with three of those wins coming against Summit League teams.

The Leathernecks had a relatively bad regular season, but made up for it in the tournament. Next year they’ll have the drive to get back there and go farther. The team will be losing four seniors, with only one of them regularly starting.

Western will say goodbye to Otis Dortch, Ryan Maas, Jordan Hughes and Brandon Gilbeck. Gilbeck was the teams main big man and will be extremely difficult to replace. He was a blocking machine, leading the NCAA, and an offensive powerhouse that was hard to stop on a good night.

While the four of them will be missed, Western has to look to the future. With freshman Zion Young and Ben Pyle absolutely lighting it up in the tournament, the future seems pretty bright. Sophomores Kobe Webster and Isaac Johnson continued to put the team on their back and junior CJ Duff played his best year yet.

As long as these five continue getting better, there’s no doubt they’ll be next season’s starting five. Going into their senior season next year will be Perion Little, Jeremiah Usiosefe, James Claar and Duff. Duff showed everyone what he was about this season, but the other three will need to step up when they’re called upon.

The other good news is that it won’t be that difficult to improve upon a 10-win season. Look for the Leathernecks to have a bounce back season and a deep run in the tournament next year. If there is a time to be “all in” on this team, it’s right now.

Twitter: bradjp08