The Western Illinois men’s basketball team headed to Fargo on Thursday for a matchup with the reigning Summit League champion North Dakota State Bison. It was very much a summary of the WIU season so far, as they scored the ball just about well enough, but could not get enough stops to secure a win. NDSU wound up taking the “W” in this one 94-74.
Going into the game, there were two NDSU players WIU needed to key in on if they wanted to have a shot at competing, and they just were not able to lock either down. One was senior guard Vinnie Shahid who racked up 22 points on 3-8 shooting from 3 and a solid 8-17 mark overall. The other was senior forward Tyson Ward, favored by many to rack up consideration for Summit League Player of the Year. Ward would not and could not be denied by the Leathernecks, as his 25 points, 6 assists, 9 made field goals, perfect free throw shooting (5-5) and 11 rebounds were all season highs. With these two at the helm, the Bison should continue to mark themselves as one of not only the best Summit League, but nationwide mid major programs.
For WIU, it was all about the defense, as offensively they put up a respectable 74 points on 44% shooting from the field and 36% from 3. The Bison out-rebounded WIU 41-26, including 8 offensive rebounds, while as a team they shot 57% from the field. This continued a trend of what has been a historically bad defensive performance, as KenPom has WIU’s adjusted defensive rating 341st of 351 Division 1 programs. If things do not improve defensively, it will not matter how strong the guard play or overall offense is. They simply must be better.
For WIU (4-8) they will next head to Brookings, South Dakota, for the second half of a men’s/women’s double header against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Saturday, January 4. Meanwhile North Dakota State (10-5) takes on Northland College at home on Sunday, January 5, before returning to Summit League action on Thursday, January 9, with a road contest against Oral Roberts.