Western Illinois Holds Off St. Thomas For Home Win


MACOMB, IL – The Leatherneck men stayed hot at home on Saturday, topping St. Thomas 60-56 on Saturday afternoon inside Western Hall. Western Illinois improved to 7-2 inside the confines of the home gym and 11-8 overall and 4-4 in the Summit League.

It was a balanced attack for the Leathernecks as all five starters scored in double figures, led by Trenton Massner’s 18 points.

“It was good, we all trust each other, so it was nice to get that,” Quinlan Bennett, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Western Illinois struggled early, falling behind by as many as nine points 10 minutes into the game as St. Thomas held the Leatherneck offense at bay.

“I thought the first 10 minutes, we are still struggling doing little, basic things that would make us a really tough unit,” coach Rob Jeter said. “We do some of these things, the simple tasks, that’s where we need our focus because our defensive numbers are looking better, we held (Riley) Miller to zero points, I would have thought that’s impossible but I like the effort of this group.”

Defense turned the game as WIU held St. Thomas to 22-55 shooting for the game, but most importantly, 2-16 from three.

“We just turned it up, I know what we can do on the court, it felt like I wasn’t doing as much as I should, so in the second half, I had to see how I could change the game by doing what I know to do, what I take pride in,” Jesiah West said.

West helped the rally, finishing with his first double-double as a Leatherneck, scoring 10 points and grabbing a season-high 13 rebounds. And while West made his presence felt scoring and rebounding, it was his showing at the rim that made the difference as he finished with three blocks, all emphatic, crowd-pleasing efforts.

“He makes our defense better, that’s for sure,” Jeter said. “Last year, I’ve seen so many of those lay-ups because we didn’t have a rim protector. He gives us protection and erases mistakes. That’s what he does, erasing plays at the rim, any team that is a good team has that because it is hard to guard one-on-one in college basketball.”

After St. Thomas took a 28-23 lead into the break, Western Illinois started warming up at the offensive end as Massner and Alec Rosner (12 points) were able to break through. A Rosner three-pointer at the 14:06 mark gave WIU a 37-36 lead, one they would hold the rest of the way.

“It was clear to me they were not allowing three-pointers, they wanted to make him come inside, that’s the formula for a lot of teams, but they were intent on making sure they were into us,” Jeter said. “Sometimes, you have to stick a tough one in someone’s face, he (Rosner) did that and it freed things up for him.”

The win was the third in four games for Western Illinois and the first of a four-game home slate. The Leathernecks are next in action on Monday, hosting North Dakota at 6 p.m.

“This one was a very important one to get,” Bennett said. “Now, we have to get our bodies right and get some rest.”

Vuk Stevanic would add 10 points and match a season-high with six rebounds. The Leathernecks would go 21-46 from the field, 3-12 from three and 15-17 from the line. Western Illinois out-rebounded St. Thomas 35-26.


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