By Ben Palanca, WC Reporter
MACOMB, IL- What a week it was in Western Hall for the WIU Men’s Basketball team. After coming off a 60-56 win over the St. Thomas Tommies to get their four home stand going, the Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks looked to stay in the win column against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. WIU struggled out of the gates, trailing UND by 5 at the break. They were able to outscore the Hawks 56-39 in the second half, winning by a score of 92-80. Senior guard Trenton Massner erupted in the second half for the Leathernecks. Massner made history, finishing the game with 46 points, hitting 9 of his 12 three point attempts. Massner’s 46 points were the most scored in a single game in Leathernecks program history, passing Dan Braun, who scored the record holding 44 points back in the 1970 season. Massner’s 9 made three-point attempts is now tied for the most ever made in a single game in program history.
WIU would continue their tough home stretch with a game against the South Dakota Coyotes. USD knocked off WIU earlier in the year in Vermillion, with Kruz Perott-Hunt doing all the damage for the Yotes. The Leathernecks had all the momentum coming into this game and showed that with a fast start. South Dakota wouldn’t back out without a fight as they came back and tied the game with seconds remaining. Trenton Massner continued his strong week with another impressive game, scoring 23 points. As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Western Hall, Massner stood just beyond the half court line. Waiting for the opportunity to present itself, Massner pulled up near the Leatherneck logo and drained the game winning three pointer to send Western Hall into a frenzy. A fourth straight win for the Leathernecks, as they took the game 75-72 in regulation.
WIU had one final test of the homestand and it was the most important game all season as they played host to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. WIU came into the game at 6-4 on the season in conference play while SDSU was 6-3. A win for SDSU and they kept sole possession of second in the conference. A win for Western meant they would jump the Jacks, an important momentum gainer for this late in the season. The Leathernecks would strike first off of two baskets inside the paint by Trenton Massner. After that, the Jackrabbits took over. SDSU would go on a 23-0 run. Guard Zeke Mayo, who torched the Leathernecks earlier this season in Brookings for 30 points, picked up right where he left off with the Leathernecks squad, leading the impressive 23-0 run. SDSU had the largest crowds in recent years inside Western Hall in complete shock. The Jacks led by as much as 22 in the first half and went into the break with a 17 point lead.
WIU came out of the break firing, cutting the lead to as little as 8 with about 14 minutes to go. However, just when Western thought things were going their way, SDSU went on another run and led by as much as 18 with just 10 minutes to play. WIU switched to a full court trap defense and began forcing turnovers and empty possessions for SDSU, while being able to find the hoop at the other end. Senior guard Alec Rosner, after being held scoreless in the opening half, was able to knock down a clutch three to tie things up at 64 a piece. SDSU would rallying and take a 69-66 lead with under 2 minutes to go. Trenton Massner inbounded the ball to Vuk Stevanic, who handed it back to Massner. Massner, with Matt Mims in his face, pulled up and sunk the game tying three and the roof was ready to come off of Western Hall. The game would remain at 69-69, forcing overtime in what might be a game of the year candidate in the Summit. In overtime, it was all WIU as they outscored the Jacks 12-4, winning by a score of 81-73, for their 5th straight. Trenton Massner scored an impressive 30 points to stay hot. Massner was named the College Basketball National Player of the week, scoring 99 points, leading WIU to a perfect 3-0 week. Alec Rosner with 16 points, with all of the points being in the second half.
WIU travels west for a matchup with the Pioneers of Denver on Thursday. Western is looking for the season series sweep and to continue their win streak.