Sioux Falls, S.D.- The Western Illinois Leathernecks took the long trip to Sioux Falls as they prepared for the quarterfinal round of the Summit League Tournament. WIU took on the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts on Sunday (March 6). The Golden Eagles took the lead early and never looked back as they would edge out the Leathernecks 80-68 to advance to the semifinal round.
The Golden Eagles came out of the gate firing. ORU really showed dominance on the offensive glass as Elijah Lufile was the spark early as he notched a near double-double by halftime. Tamell Pearson was a bright spot for the Leathernecks in the first half as he was able to find a rhythm from the midrange with 12 first-half points. WIU was struggling to stop the offensive powerhouse of Oral Roberts as WIU would trail by 12 down 43-31.
“It’s never good to get down big against a team of this caliber because you spend so much time making a comeback and then it’s just hard because they won’t give anything up easy,” said Junior guard Trenton Massner.
WIU fought as they started the second half on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to five points. Massner with 28 total points was finding his spot as he would knock down back-to-back jumpers to edge the deficit to two with over 13 minutes left. All-American guard Max Abmas would spark a run of their own to extend the lead back to ten going into the eight-minute media timeout.
The Leathernecks would make one final push as Colton Sandage was firing from three as he knocked down back-to-back threes to cut the ORU lead to five. With just over six minutes left in the game, the Leathernecks saw themselves down by three after Trenton Massner was able to squeeze his way into the paint and get to the rim. ORU’s free throw shooting was too late in the game as they would extend the lead and knock out all of the fight by the Leathernecks. The Golden Eagles would go on to win 80-68 and will look to take on the Bison of North Dakota State in the Summit League semi-finals.
Massner stuffed the stat sheet as he led all scorers with 28, along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block. Pearson finished with 14 points all of them coming in the first half. As a team, the Leathernecks shot over 40 percent from the field and hit nine threes. The Leathernecks were outrebounded by 10 which led to a lot of second-chance points for ORU.
The Leathernecks finished 16-15 overall getting over the .500 mark for the first time since 2012-2013.