Gilbeck dominates inside, Montague comes up big in WIU’s monumental upset
Two words perhaps sum up WIU’s upset of #1 seeded South Dakota State more than no others: shock, and awe. WIU came into this game having lost to SDSU in both regular season matchups by a combined 62 points, but came into the game feeling like they had a fresh start. They had a world of opportunity in front of them, and they were looking to shock the world.
What resulted was one of the greatest wins in WIU history. Going up against one of the few 3,000 point scorers in NCAA Men’s Basketball History in Mike Daum, they needed a tight defensive game plan to not allow him to beat them. WIU came in with just that exact plan to keep the ball away from him, and he was held to a modest (by his lofty standards) 16 points and 10 rebounds. David Jenkins’ 29 point performance kept the Jackrabbits alive in this one, but ultimately the consistency we have come to expect from this squad was just not there.
WIU began the shocking win by running up a lead that grew as large as 13 midway through the second half, and the game began to look very reminiscent of the classic UMBC-Virginia upset from last year’s NCAA Tournament. SDSU woke up at this point, however, and roared back to cut the lead to 77-76 WIU with 14 seconds to go. Now enter Keshon Montague, the oft-injured backup point guard who, to this, point, had a goose egg across the box score. Montague came in cold in a big spot in the biggest game of WIU’s season and came up big. With 10 seconds to go, Montague went to the line after drawing a foul and hit, perhaps, the two biggest free throws in recent WIU men’s basketball history. A David Jenkins three-point attempt nearly went down at the buzzer, but it rimmed out, and the realization began to set in that WIU had pulled off the upset of upsets. The bottom-seeded Leathernecks, who by all accounts have had as disappointing a 4 year run as should be possible, had knocked off the ever consistent Summit League powerhouse of a team in the SDSU Jackrabbits.
Ben Pyle and Kobe Webster put up 17 points apiece to lead the way for WIU, and Pyle especially may have had his most complete performance of the year. Brandon Gilbeck had the kind of dominating inside performance we’ve come to expect, despite a modest 13 points and 13 rebounds. He played large, aggressively ripping down rebounds, and getting “grown man blocks” as radio play-by-play announcer Danny Frey called them during the game. March is a fresh start for every team, and WIU looked like a new squad. Now, it’s time to keep going and push for that elusive first ever NCAA Tournament bid.