WIU 91, DENVER 74: Rosner, Massner Make Big Shots As Leathernecks Snap Streak

By JOHN BOHNENKAMP

MACOMB, Ill. — Alec Rosner did in the first half, and late in the second half.

Trenton Massner did it at the start of the second half.

Every 3-pointer they made emptied a little bit of the energy from their opponent.

Western Illinois’ 91-74 win over Denver in Saturday’s Summit League game at Western Hall was a day for big shots for the Leathernecks, who needed that boost.

Western Illinois (9-7 overall, 2-3 Summit League) snapped a three-game losing streak behind Massner’s 29 points and Rosner’s 28, both season highs for two guards who had been in shooting slumps lately.

“It was good bouncing back after three straight,” said Rosner, who was 8-of-13 from the field, 7-of-10 in 3-pointers. “We got in a little rhythm before (Christmas) break, but we came back just a little bit not the same.”

The Leathernecks were swept on their road trip to South Dakota State and South Dakota, then lost at home to Omaha on Thursday night. Massner was 11-of-45 from the field in those three games, while Rosner was 7-of-29.

“They’re our version of the ‘Splash Brothers,’” Western Illinois coach Rob Jeter said. “When they get going, it’s difficult (for opposing defenses).”

Rosner got going in the first half. He hit back-to-back threes in an 18-second span — when he hit the second one from the right corner, teammate Vuk Stevanic, standing near mid-court, began celebrating as soon as Rosner released the shot.

“Obviously Trenton does a good job of finding me — he probably gave me four or five of my threes tonight,” Rosner said. “The confidence instilled in me by my teammates and coaches is even more helpful.”

Massner was quiet in the first half — he was just 3-of-8 from the field, 0-of-2 in 3-pointers.

“The first half, I was thinking, ‘Here we go again,’” Massner said. “I couldn’t make anything. But luckily (Rosner) was keeping us afloat. … It’s really fun when he’s hitting, it takes a lot of pressure off me. I don’t feel like I have to get it all back with one shot.”

Massner’s shot started falling in the second half. He hit a 3-pointer 40 seconds into the half, and had 13 points in the first seven minutes before picking up his fourth foul.

“Second half, I saw one go through,” Massner said. “And then after that, they started to go in.”

The Leathernecks led 55-42 when Massner got his fourth foul, then seconds later Jesiah West got his fourth. Denver (10-8, 1-4) slowly chipped into the lead, getting to within 62-57 with 7:24 to play.

It was 64-59 when Rosner erupted again. He scored eight points in 49 seconds, the last three coming on a 25-foot shot from the right side.

“What it does, it stings the other team,” Jeter said. “It takes the life out of them, and it energizes us. The other team, it takes a little life out of them. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Jeter knows his offense needs more than just Rosner and Massner. He got 13 points from Stevanic, and 10 from K.J. Lee off the bench.

“KJ coming in and hitting a big three was big, then he added two layups down the stretch, he was big off the bench, he was good,” Rosner said.

“We’ve got (Rosner and Massner),” Jeter said. “We’ve got Vuk inside, so that’s a third. Now we need that fourth guy, someone who can score inside and out, and really stretch the defense.”

“Coach has been saying that all year — we need someone to help space the floor,” Massner said. “I think K.J. is showing that he can hit a three. For him it’s all confidence, if he sees one go in. We know he can shoot.”

Tommy Bruner and Touko Tainamo each had 19 points for Denver.

Photo: Western Illinois’ Trenton Massner (5) is chased by Denver’s Tyree Corbett in the second half.

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