MACOMB, Ill. — Against perennial powerhouse South Dakota State, the Western Illinois University men could not put together a consistent enough effort, falling to the Jackrabbits, 98-70, on Saturday night.
South Dakota State showed why it is the top team in the Summit League, leaning on the Leathernecks until Western cracked midway through the first half.
“It was a tough game, obviously not the way we wanted it to end up,” WIU coach Billy Wright said. “I thought the guys fought and came in with the right mindset, it was very competitive for the first 12 to 14 minutes.”
The Leathernecks trailed 20-19 with 11:32 to go in the first half, but the Jackrabbits put the hammer down the rest of the half to take a 14-point lead into the break.
“We got kind of anxious with our defensive gaps, some of the things we wanted to try to take away,” Wright said. “We became impatient and if you do that against a very good team with a high-powered offense and multiple guys who can shoot the ball, that’s what happens.
"Even in the second half, we had three defensive miscues on their first three possessions and it’s a 7-0 run. It was not the best defensive effort, we scored 70 even though we did not shoot our best, but the defense was not there tonight.”
The pace of play became frantic as the intensity picked up, but unfortunately for Western, SDSU showed why it is a veteran team accustomed to winning games at a high level while the Leathernecks went cold.
“We talk about a competitive brotherhood and being a competitor and both teams we’re competing hard,” Wright said. “They responded and we did not, they’re a good team and obviously we could not get it done.”
South Dakota State had seven players score in double digits, led by David Jenkins’ 27.
Coming into the game, Western targeted reigning Summit League MVP Mike Daum, and while Western did decent job on Daum, holding him to 11 points, the Jackrabbit scorer had plenty of help on Saturday.
“We definitely keyed in on him,” said Western Illinois guard Kobe Webster, who had 17 points. “But we also keyed in on David Jenkins. He made a lot of tough shots, I don’t think any of his shots were wide open, but he’s a good player and he made tough ones when he had an opportunity.”
SDSU started strong, jumping out to a 6-0 lead, but the Leathernecks responded as Webster scored seven straight to give WIU a lead.
“We thought we had a good matchup with the ball screen with their first unit, so we wanted to do that early and often,” Wright said. “We had good ball screens and Kobe attacked it, particularly in the half court and transition in the first half.”
Webster had plenty of help keeping WIU in the game as Isaac Johnson scored a career-high 19 points.
“Coach has been getting on me all season to be aggressive from the get, so tonight I wanted to try to go out and be aggressive from the start,” Johnson said.
In the second half, it was much the same as South Dakota State was able to get plenty of good looks while holding the Leathernecks at bay until the lead grew to as many as 37.
C.J. Duff added 16 for WIU in the loss as Western fell to 10-8 overall, 1-4 in the Summit League.