MACOMB, Ill. - After letting the Owls get within four with under nine minutes to play, Western Illinois women's basketball pulled away in the second half with an 18-9 run to close out its third victory of the season, 70-53 over William Woods.
Each offense had a sluggish start posting just two points apiece in the first four minutes of play, then the Fighting Leathernecks (3-4 overall) used a pair of layups and a free throw from Michelle Maher to take ahold of the contest. Threes from Charnelle Reed and Karis Phillips followed by a Phillips jumper put Western's lead into double figures nearly eight minutes in.
After allowing William Woods, who counted the game as an exhibition, to creep back in and cut the lead to three points, the Leathernecks responded outscoring the Owls 9-2 in the final four minutes of the half to stake a 29-19 advantage at the break.
Three three-pointers and a jumper from the hands of Maher propelled Western's offense at the beginning of the first half putting them up by 12 with 15:24 left on the clock. However, the Owls took advantage of a stretch of lay-up opportunities and shots from the charity stripe cutting the lead down to four at the 8:43 mark.
A series of layups, free throws and a fourth Maher three-pointer allowed Western to post its largest margin of 13 points with less than three minutes remaining and secure the victory. The Leatherneck defense held the Owls scoreless for the remainder of the contest and kept the offense clicking along to earn the 70-53 final.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to a good William Woods team," said JD Gravina said. "They're ranked in the Top 25 in the NAIA for a reason. I thought the way the beginning of the game went, we were playing pretty well and had a lot of intensity. We definitely had a little slide there. That is frustrating. They picked up their game and battled us the whole way. The game wasn't out of reach until the two minute mark."
Maher paced the Leathernecks in scoring with 22 points, hitting 4-of-10 from long range and matching her career high, while Kontautaite added 18 shooting 8-of-16 from the field (50 percent).
Phillips came off the bench to add a season-high seven points and a career-high tying four rebounds to her career-high eight assists. Rachel Evans also pulled down a career high eight rebounds to pace the Leathernecks.
Western Illinois returns to action on Wednesday (Dec. 5) when it takes on Loyola (Chicago) at 7 p.m. in Chicago.