University News

Leathernecks Sit Atop League Standings With Win Over South Dakota State

February 16, 2017

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Western Illinois took sole possession of The Summit League standings with the win.

* For complete story, including program and player notes, photos and post-game interview, visit

By WIU Athletics/Sports Information

MACOMB, IL – Four made free throws during the final 16 seconds sealed the victory as the Western Illinois Fighting Leatherneck women's basketball team defeated South Dakota State 83-77 Wednesday night (Feb. 15) to take sole possession of the top spot in The Summit League standings.

"This was the best win ever, and I mentioned that this was definitely the best win of my coaching career. But it's not about me, it's about our players, our team, the Macomb community and the students coming out," said head coach JD Gravina. "No question that the atmosphere won us the game. It got us off to the hot start and won us the game down the stretch."

Emily Clemens, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in her career, recorded a team-high 20 points and six assists. The win over South Dakota State marked Western Illinois' first since Jan. 14, 2008, snapping a 19-game skid to the Jackrabbits.

The Leathernecks (21-6 overall, 11-3 Summit League) stunned the Jackrabbits (19-7, 10-4) early on and jumped out to a 16-4 lead at the 5:09 mark following a 3-pointer from Olivia Braun. After the first quarter of play, Western Illinois held on to a 22-14 lead.

South Dakota State opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run and cut Western's lead to two at the 7:52 mark. Western was able to increase its lead to nine when Clemens heaved a cross-court pass to Mallory Boyle in transition for the layup and force a Jackrabbit timeout.

The Jackrabbits eventually tied the score at 33-all with 4:10 on the clock until halftime. A quick 3-pointer and an and-1 made it a 42-35 South Dakota State lead heading into the locker room after two quarters.

Western scraped away at South Dakota State's lead, eventually cutting it to four with 4:52 to go in the third quarter. Just under two minutes later, back-to- back Michelle Farrow 3-pointers tied the score at 50-50. The Leathernecks eventually regained a 55-53 lead on a 10-3 run with 1:24 to go in the third quarter. As time expired in the third, the Jackrabbits drew a foul and drained both free throws on the one-and-one to dwindle Western Illinois' lead to one.

With a little over eight minutes remaining in the game, Clemens eclipsed the 1,000-point mark after a hitting pair from the charity stripe. The junior point guard drew another foul and knocked down two more to give the Leathernecks a 67-61 lead with 7:30 left.

The Jackrabbits were able to make it a one-possession game, as they cut Western's lead to three at the final media timeout. The Leathernecks eventually went up 76-70 off a pass from Clemens, who threaded the defenders and found Morgan Blumer for the layup. South Dakota State eventually dwindled the Leathernecks' lead to just one point after a 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play. With under 20 seconds to play, a technical foul on South Dakota State resulted in two Clemens free throws.

She drained both, which gave the Purple and Gold a 79-76 lead and possession of the ball. After free throws from Clemens and Taylor Higginbotham, the Leathernecks were able to seal the win for the top spot in The Summit League standings.

Along with Clemens, Western Illinois had two others in double-digit scoring. Blumer recorded 18 points and five rebounds, while Braun added 17 and a career-high seven assists.

SDSU was led by Madison Guebert's 23 points off a 6-for-10 shooting night from beyond the arc. Ellie Thompson recorded a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Kerri Young added 14 points and eight assists and Clarissa Ober chipped in 13.

"We've come so far over the last six years, and I'm really proud of our staff, our team and the former players who helped shape our culture," said Gravina. "Fort Wayne will be playing for a conference berth, so we're going to be smart in how we prepare and reset things mentally, so that we can really get after it once we play the game."

The Leathernecks look to clinch at least a share of The Summit League regular season crown with a win next Wednesday (Feb. 22) at home against Fort Wayne. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT).

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