Leatherneck’s Must Be Cautious Down Stretch
The Western Illinois Leatherneck Men’s basketball team battled through every moment against Cleveland State, but it was not enough. The team started hot right out of the gate with an unusual fast paced start. Within the first minute of the game senior Jack Houpt felt queasy and would not see another minute in this game. Later on to end the first half, Cleveland State’s Charlie Lee began to get hot and made it a two-point game at the half.
The Vikings continued with momentum into the second half. Both Remy Roberts-Burnett and Terrell Parks went down with leg injuries. Western scrambled to make it a game but lacked the firepower to do it.
Head Coach Jim Molinari has never been a coach to go deep into his bench. He’s gone the season normally rotating in Jordan Foster, Michael Ochoreobia, and Don McAvoy. Going just 3 deep in the bench makes for tired starters and a lack of experience for the rest of the guys on the roster.
Tonight, when Roberts-Burnett, Houpt, and Parks had to exit the game, the Leathernecks were clearly tired in the fourth. The team was not only tired, but also had a lack of weapons to go to. Clark and Adam Link, the only remaining starters, were left to be heroes and Cleveland State knew it too. The Viking’s used a trap defense to defend the Leatherneck outside attack, and without a strong inside game, it worked.
This non-conference, mid-season game against Cleveland State is not a huge loss when you look at the grand scheme of things. They remain second in the Summit League with just two games left to play. They play bottom feeders of the Summit League in Kansas City and South Dakota, both at home. The team needs these two games as a confident booster to get back on track before they head up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the Summit League tournament.
The bench play may be asked to step up their role in these next two games. I’m sure Coach Molinari and his staff will be cautious with Houpt, Parks, and Robert-Burnett over the next two weeks.
Yes it would be nice for the Leathernecks to be the number one seed in the tournament, but I would prefer that the team be 100% healthy when they head to South Dakota. Western showed everyone last season how much seeding really matters.