Leathernecks season over as they are beaten by South Dakota

Dayne McElwee, Courier Staff

In a chaotic year with a new coach, new team and COVID-19, the Western Illinois Leathernecks men’s basketball team was able to make it to The Summit League Tournament for the first time since 2019. The Leathernecks had to face off against No. 2 seed South Dakota. South Dakota had won the two previous matchups earlier this year. This time will be different for South Dakota as they were without their leading scorer A.J. Plitzuweit. Plitzuweit ranks 2nd in The Summit League for scoring and was honored first team All-Summit League.

The starting lineup for the Leathernecks was the normal lineup that ended the year. The lineup consisted of Colton Sandage, Ramean Hinton, Cameron Burrell, Will Carius and Tamell Pearson. The game started out with a quick three by Hinton. South Dakota responded with a 14-0 run and didn’t look the other way as they shot 60 percent from the field in the first half to give them a 43-30 lead going into halftime. Coming out of halftime, it looked promising for the Leathernecks as they started to score more consistently and more efficiently. Second team All-Summit selection Will Carius hit a couple shots to cut the Coyotes lead to seven. The Leathernecks weren’t able to get over the hump as this was the closest that they got into this game. The Coyotes kept up their hot shooting in the second half as they shot 50 percent in the second half of this game.The Coyotes went to win this game with a final score of 86-69. The leading scorer for South Dakota was first team All-Summit selection Stanley Umude. Umude led all scorers with 24, to be followed by Xavier Fuller who scored 20. The leading scorer for the Leathernecks was Sandage. Sandage scored 16, followed by Will Carius with 12. 

The Leathernecks season ended with a final record of 7-15 and was 5-9 in Summit League. In Rob Jeter’s first year he was able to lead them to The Summit League Tournament, first five game winning streak since 2012, and had the best recruiting class in Western Illinois history. The Leathernecks will return everyone but Jake Whyrich who will not be coming back.