Leathernecks pull a string of upsets
Western Illinois continued their improbable Summit League Tournament run to pull away with a 54-53 win over Oral Roberts and advance to the Summit League Tournament Championship game against SDSU.
WIU led by one point at halftime and built the lead to seven in the opening minutes of the second half but ORU rallied to tie the game in the next two minutes. WIU trailed by as much as eight points with eight minutes remaining but the Leathernecks rallied to within one and took the lead on a Terrell Parks jump shot with 26 seconds left. The ‘Necks were able to stop a potentially lethal ORU scoring attack when Michael Craion turned the ball over with seven seconds left, allowing WIU to claim victory.
“You got to give (Western Illinois) credit. I think they’re obviously a very good defensive team …They held us to 53 points,” ORU head coach Scott Sutton said. His players had few words in a quiet press conference after the game, as the top-seed was stunned.
It’s also worth noting that the Leathernecks were the preseason pick to finish 9th in the Summit League, and now they’ll finish as the Summit League runner up in the worst case scenario for WIU.
Defense wins championships?
A renewed focus on defensive intensity has the Jacks one game away from the NCAA Tournament.
“We don’t score as many points as we did last year, but we don’t have to,” SDSU head coach Scott Nagy said.
SDSU is averaging only 52 points allowed in this Summit League Tournament just one year removed from allowing 110 points against Oakland in a semifinal game.
“I think (defense) is the main reason for our success,” Jordan Dykstra said.
While Nagy said that his team is playing well, he also gave credit to Western Illinois head coach Jim Molinari and looked forward to the Tuesday matchup to determine the Summit League Champion.
“We better have ourselves prepared, because we know (Western Illinois) will be.” Nagy said.
Summit League Championship could be a low scoring affair
Both Western Illinois and SDSU are playing well defensively, so a lightning-rod Summit League Championship game may not be in order.
The highest point total for either team in the two regular season match-ups was a 76 spot put up by SDSU when WIU played at Frost Arena in Brookings Feb. 23. All other scores have been in the 50’s and 60’s. The Jackrabbits won 67-66 in Macomb on Dec. 3.
The Jacks will have to keep WIU leading scorer Ceola Clark in check if they hope to prevail. SDSU held Clark, who averages 14 points per game, to a combined 13 points in their previous games.
For WIU, Nate Wolters will have to be the top priority if they want to continue their improbable run to the NCAA Tournament. Wolters has averaged 14 points against WIU this season, and a big game from him would undoubtably quash any hopes WIU has of being Summit League Champions.
The Summit League Championship game between SDSU and Western Illinois can be seen on ESPN2 Tuesday at 8 p.m. and followed live at sdsucollegian.com.