Western Illinois Records Historic Win at Stanford

Western Illinois' Emily Clemens
Western Illinois' Emily Clemens

STANFORD, Calif. (goleathernecks.com) -- In the biggest win in program history, Western Illinois was able to knock off the No. 18 nationally-ranked Stanford Cardinal 71-64 Monday night (Dec. 18) inside Maples Pavilion.
 
After trailing by as many as 11 in the game, Western Illinois was able to rally off a second-half surge, and outscored the Cardinal 47-31 over the final two quarters for the monumental victory.

"I am so proud of the team," said head coach JD Gravina. "The story of this game could have been if we weren't cold in the second quarter, we might have won or might have been in the game. We talked about that as a team and working on that, but we really did a good job coming back. I said if you're open, you have to shoot it. To beat them and only make five threes, including a quarter where we scored only three points, is amazing. We also had 47 rebounds. I told the team if we could get 17 rebounds, we would have a chance."
 
Despite a cold start shooting, Western Illinois was able to come out swinging in the first, and jumped out to a 21-14 lead through the first 10 minutes. Stanford answered with a 7-0 run to tie it up at 21-all in the second, and eventually outscored the Leathernecks 19-3 in the second to lead 33-24 at the half.
 
After back-to-back blocks by Olivia Braun and a fast-break layup by Emily Clemens, the Leathernecks pulled to within four with 5:10 to go in the third. That preceded a 10-point quarter by Morgan Blumer, who capped it off with two three-pointers to cut the Cardinal lead to 47-45 after three. After Taylor Higginbotham drove in the lane for a bucket and a free throw by Olivia Kaufmann, Western Illinois was able to retake a 50-49 lead with 8:02 to go.
 
With each team trading blows, the Leathernecks were able to scrape and claw to maintain their 1-point lead with 4:43 remaining.
 
Cue the run. The trio of Higginbotham, Braun and Clemens, who helped Western turn the corner and make it a two-possession game. Higginbotham's bucket made it a 4-point game, and then Braun was able to draw a crucial charge to help the Purple and Gold regain possession. That was followed by a basket by Clemens to make it a 61-55 lead with 1:48 left.
 
After the Cardinal hit a three with 1:31 to go and cut the Western lead to three, the Leathernecks went on to make eight of their final nine from the charity stripe to eventually seal the win.
 
Emily Clemens led the way with 26 points, five steals and four assists, followed by Taylor Higginbotham's double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Olivia Braun added 12 points and four blocks, while Morgan Blumer also chipped in 12.
 
The Leathernecks continue their west-coast swing, as they take on Gonzaga Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. (CT).


PROGRAM NOTES:
-The win is WIU's first-ever over an AP-Top 25 ranked opponent…
-WIU was 0-21 all-time going into the game against ranked opponents…
-Emily Clemens passed Jolene Hanig (1988-91) for the most career assists in program history…. She now has 545 for her career….
-Head coach JD Gravina is now 2-0 against Power-5 opponents this season…
-The win was also the first meeting between both programs. WIU now leads 1-0 in the series history….
-First-ever win over a Pac-12 opponent…
-Also the first time in program history that the Leathernecks defeated two Power-5 teams in one season (won 77-67 at Illinois, Nov. 21, 2017) …
-10-2 is the second-best start in program history, as the Leathernecks started 15-2 in 2005-06…
-Stanford was 152-10 at home in the last 11 years…. Western Illinois' win now marks their 11th loss in the last 11 years inside Maples Pavilion…
-Western is also the first team to defeat the Cardinal at home this season…
 
PLAYER NOTES:
-Emily Clemens' 26 points marks her new season-high in scoring and she 26 games in her career of scoring 20 or more points… her four assists now give her 545 career assists, the most in program history…
-Olivia Braun's 12 points mark her 13th career double-digit scoring game… four blocks ties her season high for the second time…
-Morgan Blumer's 12 points mark her 38th career double-digit scoring performance…
-Taylor Higginbotham's 17 points and 10 rebounds puts her at four double-doubles this season… also marks her 55th career double-digit scoring game…


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Through 35 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League features women's basketball teams from eight member institutions: Denver, Fort Wayne, North Dakota State, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota, South Dakota State and Western Illinois with North Dakota becoming an official member for the 2018-19 season. In 2016-17, The Summit League raised its RPI for the third consecutive year, finishing with an all-time best No. 11 ranking. The Summit League has sent at least three teams to the postseason nine straight years with three postseason tournament semifinal appearances the last four years, while recording the nation's best Division I winning percentage improvement since 2009-10. Called "March's Best-Kept Secret" by USA Today, The Summit League Basketball Championships annually ranks as one of the most attended Division I conference tournaments. This season's event returns to the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., March 3-6, 2018. For more information about the league, "See The Summit" by visiting www.thesummitleague.org and following Summit League Basketball on Twitter @summithoops.

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