MACOMB, Ill. - Ashley Luke recorded her third double-double of the season and Paige Harmon scored a season-high 11 points off the bench - all in the second half - as Western Illinois withstood a late North Dakota State charge to win 55-50 inside Western Hall on Thursday night (Feb. 14).
The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Leathernecks, now 11-13 overall and 4-7 in the Summit League. It also marked the first time in the last two seasons that Western won a game scoring less than 60 points, and also the first time Western ever swept the regular season series versus NDSU.
Western jumped out to an early 7-2 lead thanks to a 3-pointer from Michelle Maher and two baskets from Luke. NDSU (9-16, 5-8) scored 10 straight and used a 14-2 run to take control midway through the first.
Luke's two free throws started a 12-3 run in favor of Western, as the Leathernecks held a 21-19 lead at halftime despite shooting just 27 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from 3-point range.
In the second half, Luke hit two baskets while Maher and Rebecca Henricson sank a 3-pointer to go ahead by eight. Harmon extended the lead when she entered the game with 14 minutes remaining hitting 4-of-5 field goals (including two key 3-pointers), and finished with a three-point play in the final minutes to help secure the win.
Western led by 15 with eight minutes left before the Bison went on a 20-7 run. Dani DeGagne sank a 17-footer to make it a two-point game with 50 seconds left.
Luke hit two free throws with 28 seconds left, then Henricson sealed it when she hit the front end of a 1-and-1 for the final margin. NDSU missed two 3-point attempts in the final seconds.
"It feels really good to get the monkey off our back so to speak. The first half... we just grinded that thing out. As bad as we were shooting we defended and I thought our energy was much better, and that's hard to do when you're not hitting shots. I was really proud of the fact that down the stretch, we really kept our composure and it feels good to get a win," said head coach JD Gravina.
The redshirt-freshman Luke finished with 18 points (one off season-high), 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals to lead Western. Harmon's 11 points came in just eight minutes played. Maher made it three freshmen in double-figures scoring 10.
Gravina noted the key play of his freshmen in the victory.
"Our freshmen are just good players. Ashley - this was her third double-double - Michelle's been a good, consistent player for us both on the offensive and defensive end. Charnelle (Reed) had been our leading scorer a couple times in the last five games, and then Paige comes in tonight and gives us that offense," stated Gravina.
Western was 30.9 percent from the field and just 5-of-21 from 3-point range while the Bison shot 31.7 percent and 4-of-14 beyond the arc. Western held a slight edge in turnovers at 13/14 while out-rebounding NDSU by six.
DeGagne was one of three Bison in double-figures, finishing with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
On Saturday (Feb. 16), the Leathernecks play host to league-leading South Dakota State. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and is part of the Think Pink event inside Western Hall. For more information click on GoLeathernecks.com.