Men’s basketball begins season 0-3

Christopher Gibson, Courier Staff

MACOMB, Ill. — The Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks (0-3) took on the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks at Western Hall on Wednesday. It was another hard-fought and gritty performance on the Leathernecks’ part, but ultimately they wound up on the losing side of the battle. This was the second of four straight home games for the Leathernecks.

The Skyhawks came into the game with an even record of one win and one loss. Their most recent game was a loss to Eastern Tennessee State, which saw a loss by a score of 75-92. The Skyhawks were led by senior Quintin Dove who is averaging 23 points per game for the team. Led by an impressive backcourt, the Skyhawks were looking to get above the .500 mark on the season.

Coming off two straight losses, the Leathernecks were hoping that the third time would be the charm. They were looking for good solid play from their backcourt and some imposing defense from big man James Claar. Claar looked to keep his momentum going on the defensive side of the ball from the last game against Stetson. The Leathernecks were also looking to junior guard Kobe Webster, who went into the game with 999 points, just one shy of joining the 1,000 point club here at Western and he showed that he wanted that last point.

After sinking a three pointer to get him over the hump early on in the first half, Webster kept the momentum going for the Leathernecks. The first half saw a lot of back and forth action between the two squads that led to a high scoring first half. After Western was down by as much as 11 points with a little over seven minutes left in the first half, the team went on a 10-2 run to take back the lead, with under a minute left in the half. Webster paced the Leathernecks in the first half with 15 points and Dove led the way for the Skyhawks with 14. The half ended with a three point lead in favor of the Leathernecks by a score of 46-43.

The second half saw a slump from the Leathernecks, but not from Webster. He would add another 13 to his scoring total. However, the tables were flipped in the second half when the Leathernecks were up by as much as 15 with 13 minutes left, when the Skyhawks turned on the jets and didn’t look back. The Purple and Gold tried to stay close, closing the gap to two points with a minute left, but allowed a 7-0 run by the Skyhawks in that final minute, who were able to extend their lead to seven points.

While they might have lost the game, there were some bright sides for the Leathernecks. Webster not only earned his way into the 1,000 point club, but also set a career high for points with 28. Four other players joined Webster with double digits for the game, and Jaeden King was able to provide 13 points off the bench.

There will be some growing pains as the season goes on for the Leathernecks, but there is still plenty of the season still remaining for them to find their footing. They play again next Wednesday when they host the Northern Illinois Huskies at Western Hall.