By John Bohnenkamp
Western Illinois’ women’s basketball team had less than 24 hours to find its energy.
The Leathernecks, sluggish in Friday’s home loss to Kansas City, bounced back with an 82-76 win over the Roos on Saturday at Western Hall.
The unique two-game weekend series in Summit League play provides a quick opportunity for a rebound from a loss, and the Leathernecks (3-11 overall, 2-4 conference) got that.
“Obviously a real character win for us,” coach JD Gravina said.
The listlessness from Friday’s 78-64 loss was something the Leathernecks knew they couldn’t repeat.
“We played pretty dead,” senior Grace Gilmore said.
“I think we’re a better team than that,” Gravina said.
Gilmore was one of the sparks, scoring 21 points to lead Western Illinois. She was 6-of-6 in free throws in the final 1:08, and had a rebound and a steal on back-to-back possessions by the Roos in the final 18 seconds.
Her motivation was simple.
“I hate losing,” Gilmore said.
“She was huge,” Gravina said. “That’s so good for her. Down the stretch, she was pretty solid.”
Western Illinois led for most of the game. The Leathernecks fell behind by one point twice in the final 2 ½ minutes, but had an answer each time.
“It was encouraging to see that,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore’s two free throws with 1:08 to go put Western Illinois up 74-73, then the Leathernecks padded that margin when Danni Nichols scored on a baseline drive with 22 seconds left.
Evan Zars had 17 points for the Leathernecks. Nichols and Elizabeth Lutz each had 15. Carla Flores had 10.
Naomie Alnatas had 18 for Kansas City (5-6, 2-3).
Western Illinois had a 39-35 rebounding edge and forced 18 turnovers.
It was another lesson for the Leathernecks, who haven’t won back-to-back games this season.
“We’ve got to be the aggressor,” Gravina said. “We can’t be a team to get outhustled.”
If anything, it provides some momentum for the week ahead. Western Illinois plays host to South Dakota in a two-game series on Friday and Saturday.
“Tonight we had a chip on our shoulder,” Gravina said. “And that can kind of carry you.”