SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A crowd of over 5,000 quickly found a team to cheer for in No. 7 seed Western Illinois women's basketball (12-18, 7-11) as it upended the No. 2 seed Oral Roberts (20-10, 14-4), 83-71. Western advances to Monday's semifinal at 2:30 p.m.
The Leathernecks led by as many as 22 and never surrendered its lead. Four Leathernecks finished in double-figures, led by Valencia Kelly's 24 (career-high). Saule Kontautaite nailed six triples and finished with 22 points. Sadie Webb poured in 16 while Brittany Demery chipped in 12. Western shot 45.3 percent from the floor and 42.3 from three with 11 triples.
Western jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two free throws from Kelly at the 18:42 mark. Demery followed with a triple to make it a 7-0 run to begin the game.
Kelly earned a three-point play to stretch Western's lead to 10-2 with 16:30 on the clock. Webb knocked down a baseline three-pointer to give the Purple & Gold a 13-2 advantage with just over 15 minutes to play.
The Golden Eagles were to quick to get back into the game and Western clung to a 15-10 lead at the 11:50 mark. Michele Salvatori extended the Leathernecks lead back to ten at 20-10, with a triple.
Webb collected another three-point play for the Leathernecks at the 7:32 mark to give Western a 25-12 advantage. Kontautaite tied the program record for three-pointers in a season (62) with a triple at the 5:10 mark and also gave Western a 28-12 lead.
As the first-half buzzer sounded Kontautaite drilled a baseline triple to break the program record and give Western a 38-16 lead. Webb led the offense with 12 points while Kelly and Demery poured in seven points. Western shot 51.9 percent and hit six three-pointers.
Oral Roberts shot 20.6 percent while committing 10 turnovers while Western held Summit League Player of the Year, Kevi Luper, to eight points on 4-of-13 shooting.
ORU ratcheted up the defense to spark a 6-0 run to start the second-half. The run cut Western's lead to 38-22 with 18:25 left in the game. Kontautaite knocked down three consecutive triples as the pace quickened. Western led 47-27 at the 17-minute mark.
The Leathernecks were able to adjust to ORU's full-court zone defense and at the 13:22 mark, Western held onto a 51-34 lead. Kelly knocked the Leathernecks' 11th three-pointer of the game to give Western a 57-38 lead at the 10-minute mark.
Demery knocked down two free throws to give Western a 62-45 lead with 7:16 left in regulation. An offensive rebound and put back for ORU cut Western's lead to 62-50 with 6:19 on the clock.
Kelly knocked down one of two free throws at the 3:52 mark to extend Western's lead to 67-57. Webb traveled back to the line and hit both to give Western a 69-57 lead with 3:23 on the clock.
A three-point play from Jackie Rieger at the 2:33 mark gave the Leathernecks a 72-57 advantage. A huge jumper from Kelly gave Western a 74-60 lead to answer an ORU three-pointer.
Western was able to convert its free throws and upset the Golden Eagles, 83-71. It was the first time that ORU has not advanced out of the first round since 2008-09. In addition, it is the first time ever Western has beaten ORU in the tournament and snaps an overall seven-game losing streak against ORU. It is Western's first win in the tournament since 2009-10 when it defeated Oakland.
Western will play the winner of No. 3 UMKC and No. 6 Oakland who play Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The Leathernecks split with both beating UMKC in Kansas City and Oakland inside Western Hall.