Women’s basketball victorious over break in front of record setting crowd

Bradley Piros, Sports Editor

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MACOMB, Ill. — While students and faculty were back home for Thanksgiving Break, the Western Illinois women’s basketball team still had some work to do before the holiday. They took on Drake University back on Nov. 24 and Missouri Baptist University on Nov. 26 picking up a tough loss and a bounce back win.

The Leathernecks ended their difficult four-game stretch against Indiana State, Purdue, Bradley and finally Drake. The Bulldogs were victorious 94-75, handing Western their fourth loss of the season.

Senior guard Olivia Kaufmann led the attack with her 20 points, but also had the most turnovers in the game with six. Twelve of those points came from the three-point line as she went 4-10 on the night and 8-17 from the rest of the field.

Following close behind was redshirt sophomore guard Danni Nichols. She notched a season high 17 points, five assists and four rebounds. As always, sophomore forward Evan Zars was racking up the rebounds, this time with 17 to go along with her four points. She’s averaging 10.7 rebounds and seven points per game.

Western trailed 49-34 at the half in a game that only had four lead changes. Drake just never let up and the deficit was too much for the Leathernecks to come back from. Luckily, their schedule is a little smoother sailing now until Summit League play.

Western’s last contest was against Missouri Baptist at home last Tuesday. They were able to bounce back and pick up a 90-69 win. They did so in front of the largest crowd Western Hall has ever seen with 1,624 fans packed inside for Elementary Day.

The Leathernecks sent those fans, as well as head coach JD Gravina, home happy with a dominant 21-point victory before the holiday.

“What a great event inside Western Hall,” Gravina said in an interview with WIU Athletics after the win. “It’s amazing to see so many young people excited about WIU and our women’s basketball program.”

The game saw three double-digit scorers for the Leathernecks including Nichols, junior guard Grace Gilmore and redshirt senior guard Annabel Graettinger. Zars once again recorded a two-digit figure with 11 rebounds to go along with her five points.

Nichols finished the afternoon with 21 points, which was another season high. She’s playing at her best right now and went nearly perfect (9-10) from the field. Gilmore racked up a team leading 3 three-pointers on her way to scoring 13 points on the day. Finally was Graettinger who recorded11 points and three assists.

Western never trailed during this game and was in complete control the entire time. Thirty-four points were scored off turnovers and it was exciting to watch with 42 points being scored on the fast break. Either way, the Leathernecks were making baskets and were able to get the win at home.

Western will have two more games, both on the road, before they settle down for finals week. They’ll be pitted against the Illinois State University Redbirds on Wednesday and the Chicago State University Cougars on Saturday. Both games are absolutely winnable as they look to improve upon their 4-4 record.

After the road trip, Western will play six games over break and open up their conference play against South Dakota at home on Dec. 29.

They have a long way until then, so for now they’ll have their sights set on the Redbirds. Tip off against ISU is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Twitter: @bradjp08

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