The Fighting Leathernecks traveled to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers in historic Assembly Hall on Tuesday. It was the regular season opener for Western Illinois and the Hoosiers and the Hoosiers came out on top 98-65.
The Leathernecks started out strong, building a 15-12 lead after freshman guard Jaeden King knocked in a three. The Hoosiers proceeded to go on an 18-0 run that allowed them to take complete control of the game. By halftime, the Hoosiers extended the lead to 46-25, the only reason it was that close was because junior guard Kobe Webster banked in a shot from half court to beat the buzzer right before the half. Webster led the Leathernecks with 18 points and contributed three assists. Sophomore guard Zion Young had 12 points as the pair of guards were the only Leathernecks to reach double digit points. The Hoosiers were led by junior forward Justin Smith, who chipped in 24 points in 22 minutes and junior guard Al Durham who contributed with 21 points. Durham was perfect from the field going 7-7 from the field and 3-3 from beyond the arc. A handful of players made their Leatherneck debut, the group was led by transfer Kyle Arrington. The 6-foot-10 junior center was able to put up eight points as well as six rebounds through 16 minutes. After losing Brandon Gilbeck, Western will need to find some height and Arrington appears to be able to step into that role. The Leathernecks are now 5-33 against Big 10 competition with their last win coming in 2015 against the Wisconsin Badgers.
On Saturday, the Leathernecks will play host to the Stetson Hatters from Deland, Fla. The Hatters won their first game over the Trinity Baptist College Eagles by a score of 84-26. The Eagles are a Division I program in the NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association). Last season, the two teams met at Stetson, the Hatters won the game 68-64 after overcoming a large Leatherneck lead late in the first half.
Last season, Stetson went 7-24 overall and 3-13 within the Atlantic Sun Conference. Donnie Jones was selected over the offseason to lead the Hatters. Before becoming a head coach, Jones spent several years at the University of Florida as an assistant under current Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. Jones was then selected to be the head coach at Marshall from 2007-2010, amassing a record of 55-41 before leaving for the University of Central Florida. Jones spent six seasons at UCF, getting them to the NIT in his second season. His last three seasons saw the program fall and Jones was let go after getting a record of 79-88 overall and 34-61 in conference play. Overall, his record sits at 134-128. Stetson is predicted to be at the bottom of the Atlantic Sun by different outlets so he has a tall task in front of him. Junior guard Christiaan Jones is the only returning player for Stetson that averaged double digits last season and he had 23 in the opener. Jones had eight points last year against the Leathernecks.
For Western, this will be the home opener and the first chance to see this Leathernecks squad as most people didn’t catch the game against Indiana. After a tough first game it is important for Western Illinois to come out and grab their first win at home. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m.