MACOMB, Ill. - Freshman Charnelle Reed led Western Illinois in scoring for the third straight game - sharing game-high honors with 15 points- however, the Leathernecks could not rally in the final minutes in a 61-55 loss at home to IUPUI on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 2). Western (10-12 overall, 3-6 Summit League) dropped its fourth straight overall and third in a row at Western Hall.
In the opening half, Western netted its first nine points beyond the arc. Saule Kontautaite hit one less than 30 seconds into the contest, Rebecca Henricson followed sinking one at the 16:58 mark and Kontautaite added her second minutes later for a 9-4 lead.
IUPUI went on a 6-0 run and took its first lead of the game. The lead would change six times in the first half, and thanks to Henricson hitting 3-of-4 free throws on consecutive possessions Western took a 23-22 lead into the locker room.
Clara Mitchell made a lay-up in the opening seconds of the second half, that started a 7-0 run for the Jaguars (12-9, 6-3) to give them a lead they would not relinquish. The lead grew to eight, but the Leathernecks charged back. Rachel Evans scored on a lay-in, Reed hit a 3-pointer and Michele Salvatori's basket made it 39-37 with just over six minutes remaining.
IUPUI hit two free throws and a layup to quickly make it six points again. Western thought to make it another one-possession game as Reed's long jumper was originally ruled a '3' but video replay called it a 2-pointer. It wound up being the closest Western would get down the stretch as IUPUI made 14-of-17 free throws from that point on to close out the win.
"I thought there were some positives. We did a much better job handling the ball than we did at their place. We did a great job handling their pressure today. I thought we got a lot of really good looks, but we just had trouble finishing," said head coach JD Gravina. "Our half-court defense was pretty good. It's just a matter of needing to get more defensive rebounds... The thing about our conference is that every single game, you can win it or you can lose it and we figured that out. I think IUPUI is the second-best team in the conference and they're not a great matchup for us, so it's not like we completely fell apart against them. They won the game, they played pretty well. Hopefully we can get some confidence going whether it's for this stretch, and the rest of the season or for the conference tournament."
Reed hit four shots beyond the 3-point arc, netting her 15 points in 24 minutes off the bench. Henricson added 13 points, three steals and three assists. The junior point guard recorded her 200th career assist in the game, and is now just 25 away from tying for 10th place all-time.
Salvatori grabbed eight rebounds while Ashley Luke contributed eight points and seven rebounds. Kontautaite's two 3-pointers gave her 48 this year which ties her for 10th place on the season 'Top 10' list and now 19 away from her record set last season.
Western forced 20 IUPUI turnovers and recorded 10 steals, but could only hit 9-of-19 free throws and ended up 32.8 percent shooting from the field. Western was also out-rebounded 50-32.
Kerah Nelson led the Jags with 15 points, and coming off the bench Nevena Markovic scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half.
The Fighting Leathernecks return to action on Thursday (Feb. 7) at Omaha in Summit League play. The game is slated to begin at 7 p.m.