ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Western Illinois received a balanced scoring effort, but could not fully stage a second half rally and dropped a 55-44 decision at Saint Louis on Saturday (Nov. 24).
Rachel Evans gave Western (1-4 overall) the early lead, but SLU went on a 14-2 run to go ahead by 10. Charnelle Reed drained the team's only 3-pointer of the half, and then Jackie Rieger scored inside cutting the deficit to five. However, the Billikens scored five straight of their own to make it double-digits again.
Ashley Luke, Rebecca Henricson and Saule Kontautaite scored consecutive baskets cutting SLU's lead to 19-15. Michelle Maher's jumper kept it at four points under the three minute mark. Courtney Webb hit her fourth 3-pointer of the half and SLU added a free throw to extend the lead. Martyna Kudziela's basket accounted for what would be the halftime margin at 25-19.
The Billikens (2-3) came out and scored five straight in the second half before both teams traded baskets. Reed hit one of her two free throw attempts, followed by a basket in the paint by Sophie Reichelt and another from Rieger who was fouled on the play. She couldn't convert the three-point play but Western made it a 36-30 score.
Four straight points by the Billikens ended thanks to a 3-pointer from Maher. Luke scored inside then Henricson drained another from beyond the arc cutting it to nine, but a decisive 9-0 run by SLU secured the victory.
Luke led Western with six points and six rebounds while Maher, Henricson and Reichelt added five points each. The 44 points were the fewest by Western since February 2011 (40 at South Dakota State). Western outscored SLU in the paint by six and the bench outscored the opposition 24-2.
"Early on we were struggling offensively but I was pleased with how we were grinding it out defensively. However, when things quit going our way our play fell. We need to be more aggressive... we weren't pushing the ball during the first three quarters of the game. They did a good job defensively, but we have to have an aggressive mentality to be good on offense," said head coach JD Gravina. "Our practices haven't been where they need to be. We need to pick that up and get more competitive in practice, that's where we are going to get better."
Western shot 38 percent from the field, and thanks to the second half improved to 5-of-19 from long distance (four in the final 20 minutes), while SLU shot 47 percent overall. The Leathernecks only attempted three free throws, making one, and committed 15 turnovers to 16 by the Billikens. SLU also held a 36-24 edge on the glass.
Courtney Webb led the Billikens scoring 16 points while Lorreal Jones added 12 and 11 from Mallory Eggert. All five of the SLU starters played at least 32 minutes.
Western returns home looking to snap a three-game losing streak, playing host to Valparaiso on Tuesday night (Nov. 27). Tipoff inside Western hall is scheduled for 7.