Men’s hoops take on Indiana University Hoosiers in season-opener

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Men’s hoops take on Indiana University Hoosiers in season-opener

Kobe Webster guards a player on the opposing team.

Kobe Webster guards a player on the opposing team.

Myanna Perdue/ Courier Staff

Kobe Webster guards a player on the opposing team.

Myanna Perdue/ Courier Staff

Myanna Perdue/ Courier Staff

Kobe Webster guards a player on the opposing team.

Christopher Bean, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Western Illinois University men’s basketball team starts their season tomorrow night on the road against the Hoosiers of Indiana University.

After a disappointing 9-20 regular season, the Leathernecks snuck into The Summit League tournament with a 4-12 Summit League record. They faced three-time defending Summit League Conference Champions and the No. 1 seed, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. The Leathernecks played their best game of the year and upset SDSU 79-76, ending the Jackrabbits hopes for a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Not only was it Western’s best upset of all-time, but it was the biggest upset in Summit League history. It was the first time ever that a No. 8 seed defeated the No. 1 seed in Summit League Tournament history. The Leathernecks went on to lose 76-73 to eventually Summit League winners, North Dakota State. Even though the Leathernecks finished 10-21, they enter the season with a lot of momentum.

The Purple and Gold have eight players returning from last years roster, including five players who started games last year, and bring in three new freshmen and four transfers. One of the returning starters is junior Kobe Webster. He enters his third year as a starter and was selected to the Preseason All-Summit League First Team. He led the team in points, assists and minutes last year, and hopefully looks to become the best player in The Summit League. Seniors C.J. Duff and Jeremiah Usiosefe are two of three seniors on this year’s team. Duff has been a starter the last years, while Usiosefe started his sophomore year, but an injury ended his season earlier, and he became a role player off the bench last year. The other senior is James Claar, who is a nice replacement to Brandon Gilbeck. Gilbeck is the only starter they lost, but is a big one because he helped the nation in blocks last year and was Summit League Defensive Player of the Year. Claar fit nicely at his role last year as a backup, and will look to improve as a starter in his senior year.

Head coach Billy Wright will lead the Leathernecks in his year as head coach since he took over the program in April of 2014. He is 48-94 and has 20 losing seasons. However, in year six, Wright has arguably his best teams he’s had as a head coach.

For the Hoosiers, Archie Miller enters his third year as the head coach at Indiana. Like Wright, he is looking for his first appearance to the NCAA Tournament with his current team, however he made it to the Elite 8 with his former team, the Dayton Flyers, back in 2014.

Western looks to get their highly anticipated season off to a good start on the road against the Indiana Hoosiers of the Big 10. The Leathernecks struggled on the road last year, only winning two of their 16 games on the road. They only play 12 road games, but if they can figure out how to win on the road this year, expect them to compete for The Summit League title.

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. tomorrow night.

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