Leathernecks look to grab big road win against ISU Redbirds

Bradley Piros, Sports Editor

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After a dominant 21-point win over Missouri Baptist University at home over Thanksgiving break, the Western Illinois women’s basketball team will head on the road for two games. The Leathernecks will start that road trip tonight against the Illinois State University Redbirds.

The teams have squared off four times with each team taking home two victories. The two teams’ last matchup was back on Dec. 20, 2016 where Western handed ISU a 30-point loss by a score of 80-50.

That was two years ago when the Redbirds posted an 8-23 record overall, going 1-13 on the road. They have made some improvements since then and are off to a hot 5-1 start in 2019.

ISU shoots a combined .425 percent from the field and .270 percent from beyond the arc. The team averages 67.8 points per game while their defense holds their opponents to 57.8 on average.

Leading the attack for the Redbirds are two seniors. First is guard TeTe Maggett who averages a team high 17 points per game, 7.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Following right behind her is forward Lexi Wallen with 16.2 points per game and 5.8 rebounds. Four other players average at least five points a contest for the Redbirds, but it’s the work behind the ball that’s been winning them games.

ISU averages 28.2 defensive rebounds a game, eight steals and three blocks. They have arguably the best defense in the Missouri Valley Conference and they’ve used it to pick up some quality wins over Marquette and University of Illinois.

They’re riding a four-game win streak coming into this game and are 3-0 at home. It will be a tough task to take down this team, but Western has the firepower to do just that.

While the Redbirds have a dynamic duo up top, Western has more of a big three at the moment. Paving the way is senior guard Olivia Kaufmann with her 16.3 points per game and .425 field goal percentage. She’s made a team high 12 three-pointers and has the second best percentage in that category at .353. Leading the way in the percentages is redshirt sophomore guard Danni Nichols with a .508 mark from the field and .368 from the three. She also has 10.4 points per game.

Rounding out that “big three” is redshirt senior guard Annabel Graettinger. She’s got 12.9 points per game which is second on the team behind Kaufmann. Leading the way in rebounding for Western is sophomore forward Evan Zars. She averages 10.8 rebounds per game to go along with her 6.8 points per game.

The Leathernecks haven’t exactly been the most sound on the defense, holding their opponents to 76 points per game while only putting up 77.3 on average. The team has a .396 field goal percentage and .316 from behind the line.

Western has struggled when the three hasn’t been on their side, for instance, the game against Bradley. While the Braves were a solid opponent that Western was always going to have problems with, the score line shouldn’t have been 84-49. It was so lopsided because they had to earn every basket they made, but also because the three just wasn’t landing.

If Western can get out to a fast start and build a little shooting confidence, they should be all right, but the Redbirds are still red hot and can’t seem to be stopped.

It’s going to be a tough task for the Leathernecks and it tips off at 6 p.m. tonight inside Redbird Arena from Normal, Ill.

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