The Leathernecks of Western Illinois traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to take on the Mavericks of Omaha in a weekend doubleheader. The Leathernecks came into this weekend 3-12 overall and 1-7 in The Summit League. Omaha came into this weekend 2-14 overall and 0-6 in the conference, searching for their first Summit win.
The Leathernecks came into the weekend with a lot of promise, as they split the doubleheader with North Dakota last weekend and got their first Summit win with a 99-87 victory. Omaha came in being very deflated, as they got swept by the current Summit leaders South Dakota by the scores of 91-59 and 97-93. It was very clear that Derrin Hansen’s squad was in desperate need of a win this weekend.
Western Illinois had a very strong half, led by the spark off the bench from Anthony Jones, and also from Will Carius, as the Leathernecks went into the break up 37-31. The game was close the whole second half as well, especially in the final three minutes, as the Leathernecks saw their nine-point lead cut to three when Omaha guard Nick Ferrarini made a three point jumper. But luckily, Western Illinois was able to not let their lead fall away as Carius, Jones and Colton Sandage pushed their lead to 10 in the final seconds as the Leathernecks ended up going on to win the first game of the weekend 85-77.
Carius finished as the Leathernecks leading scorer as he put up 21 points, going 9-9 from the free throw line as well. Jones also showed out for the Leathernecks as he poured in 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench. Omaha was led by senior guard Ayo Akinwole as he poured in 27 points and grabbed five rebounds. Ferrarini also had 11 points and Marlon Ruffin had 10.
Game two was very similar to the game as the night before, as both teams battled it out in the first 10 minutes in the first half, but the Leathernecks pushed their lead to 10 points and saw it disappear in four minutes as the Leathernecks went into the halftime break up 37-32. The second half would see the Leathernecks lose their lead when Ruffin made a layup to convert the and-one, but he missed the free throw. This would put the Mavericks up 47-46. Both teams continued to duke it out as they kept trading leads, and by the time there was one minute left in the game, it was a one point game. But Justin Brookens sank two free throws to put the Leathernecks up 75-72, and that was too much as the Leathernecks went on to win 75-73 to sweep the weekend.
The Leathernecks were led by Carius again, who had 22 points. Sandage and Brookens both had 11 points to spark the team as well. Omaha was once again led by Akinwole, who had 21 points. Ruffin had 13 points before leaving the game after being knocked unconscious. Our condolences go out to him for a speedy recovery.
Western Illinois now has their third straight win, as they now sit at 5-12 overall and 3-7 in the conference. They are seventh in The Summit League. Omaha drops to 2-16 overall and 0-8 in the conference. They are in last place in The Summit League.
The Leathernecks will come home to Western Hall next weekend for the final homestand of the season as they will host the Denver Pioneers. Omaha will travel to the Show-Me state as they will take on UM Kansas City.