By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
MOLINE, Ill. — Rob Jeter wanted two things out of Western Illinois’ 79-50 win over Eureka in Friday’s men’s basketball game at Vibrant Arena.
And avoid anything that Jeter, the Leathernecks’ coach, considered “weird stuff.”
The Leathernecks (7-4) won their fifth consecutive game heading into Monday’s Summit League opener at home against North Dakota State. They outscored Eureka 19-2 over the last 10 ½ minutes of the first half to take control of the game, and the second half was all about keeping the starters fresh while giving playing time to the rest of the bench. It showed as the Red Devils outscored Western Illinois 39-38 in the second half.
“This is a great learning video for some guys who aren’t playing as many minutes that want to be better, that are better, that maybe wish they could have those 20 minutes back, and that’s OK,” Jeter said. “That’s where we get a chance to teach them and get better.”
The Leathernecks got 27 bench points. Steph Gabriel had 13 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. K.J. Lee had 10 rebounds in 22 minutes. Elijah Farr had six points in 20 minutes. JJ Kalakon had five rebounds in 22 minutes.
What Jeter was glad to avoid was any sort of serious challenge from Eureka, an NCAA Division III team coached by Western Illinois graduate Chip Wilde.
“There’s a lot of respect that went into this game and a lot of intentional things that went into scheduling this game,” Jeter said. “I was pretty pleased with how we came out business-like, coming out of final exams. You look across some of the scores across the country, there’s some weird stuff. I watched a game where a Division III team was up at (halftime) against a D-I team. So we understand what’s going on here, but I think this would be a great video to teach some things and get better.”
Quinlan Bennett led Western Illinois with 14 points. He was 7-of-9 from the field coming back from a bout with the flu.
“It was really (a game) just to get comfortable,” Bennett said.
Vuk Stevanic and Trenton Massner each had 10 points for the Leathernecks.
Now it’s all about conference play for Western Illinois. The Leathernecks play host to the Bison, then play two days later against North Dakota at home.
Asked if the Leathernecks, who started the season 2-4, are happy with where they’re at as a team, Bennett said, “Obviously, yeah, but you can’t get too comfortable. So obviously we have to lock into the task at hand, get ready for conference.”
“We had that little lull early in the year, and I think we bounced back in a good way,” Massner said. “I think we’re in a good position, but we have to prove it.”
“First of all, we’ve got to make sure that we’re healthy,” Jeter said. “The way all of this sickness and stuff is going on, we have to make sure that guys stay healthy. And then we have to make sure that we understand the importance of taking care of home court. You have to go into it with the mindset of playing hard, but we’re learning some of those things.”
Photo: Western Illinois’ Trenton Massner applies the defense in Friday’s game against Eureka.