Game 1: Gophers v Western Illinois 11-7-22

Ignatius L Hoops

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A MACOMB MOMENT



Western Illinois’ J D Gravina had his moment. Now coaching his 12th season in Macomb, Illinois, Gravina’s high point came in 2016-17. The Fighting Leathernecks posted a 26-7 record (13-3 in the Summit League) sweeping both the regular season and conference tournament titles. This earned WIU its second NCAA appearance and first since 1995. Even though Florida State sent WIU packing in the first round 66-87, Gravina and his high scoring offense (80 ppg) were touted for various head coaching openings.

The next season, while not as successful, kept the ball rolling. WIU finished 22-10 (10-4 in conference). The highlights included a win at #18 Stanford (71-64) and an offense scoring at a program record 81 ppg. The Leathernecks loved launching threes: in 2016-17 they were 314-916 (.343) and in 2017-18 they were better, hitting 338-944 (.358). It added up to a WNIT invite. Unfortunately, during the next four years, JD Gravina’s teams have drifted south of .500.

In the following years, Western’s best conference record was 9-7 (tied for 3rd) in 2019-20. Last season, WIU finished 14-15 and 5-13 in conference (7th). This season, the preseason Summit League poll has the Leathernecks pegged for 7th. Scoring has fallen 10 ppg from the glory years to 71 ppg. And threes are harder to come by 250-765 (.322). Garvina is in danger of having his 170-161 career record at WIU drop below .500. Minnesota, trying to reverse its own slide, is willing to continue his.

SOME PLAYERS

5’11” guard Jayda Adams also had her moment. The one-time Duke recruit played the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons for the Blue Devils appearing in 63 games. Then back-to-back ACL’s wiped out her next two years. Last season, Adams transferred to Cal State Northridge; but did not play because of injury. Looking for another chance, Adams was a September addition to the Leatherneck roster and like the Gopher’s injury afflicted Mi’Cole Cayton we have no idea how much she will play.

5’7” guard Elizebeth Lutz is a player whose moment is now. The California native was a Summit League defensive first team selection with 2.2 steals per game. She started 29 games and scored 12 points per game. Lutz went 45-145 (.297) from behind the arc.

5’9” junior guard Anna Deets was the Leathernecks best three threat going 51-132 (.386) from three.

5’9” Guard Jada Thorpe began her career at Kansas State. Thorpe averaged 11 points and 2 steals per game.

Of note is 5’10”, Monmouth transfer, sophomore forward Zareia Chevre from St. Paul (Simley).

6’1” center Alissa Dins put up some good numbers in the first exhibition games with 17 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes. In the second she played 16 minutes with 2 points, 7 rebounds and four fouls.

Western arrives at Williams Arena following two exhibition outings. On 24 October WIU dispatched NAIA Columbia College (Missouri) 70-57. And on 1 November they pulled away from D2 Quincy University (Illinois) 63-48. I doubt the Leathernecks three-point shooting is where Gravina wants it to be. They were 6-24 versus Columbia and 8-29 versus Quincy. And, please note, Jayda Adams did not appear in either game.

If you’re wondering, WIU and Macomb lie roughly mid-way between Peoria (think Bradley University) and the Mississippi river town of Quincy (think Lincoln-Douglas debate).

GOPHERS VERSUS LEATHERNECKS

Minnesota and Western Illinois have faced off four times. The Gophers won the first in 1994 and the last in 1997. Western took the middle two contests. This season, I’m assuming Minnesota will turn out to be WIU’s strongest non-conference opponent.

Both the Gophers and Leathernecks will play Eastern Illinois, Chicago State and, of course, North Dakota State. Western Illinois will be regular visitors to the Twin Cities as they compete against conference foe St. Thomas.

THE “ROCK” AND THE FIGHTING LEATHERNECKS NICKNAME

No, not that “Rock”; this “Rock”: WWI veteran Ray Hanson:

Western Illinois University holds the distinction of being the only non-military institution to officially have its nickname derived from a branch of the military service. The school began use of the Marine Corps’ official nickname, “The Fighting Leathernecks,” in 1927 when then-athletic director and head baseball, basketball and football coach Ray “Rock” Hanson was granted permission by the U.S. Navy, based on his status as a Marine hero, to use the Marine’s official seal and bulldog mascot along with their nickname.

Elizabeth Lutz Exhibtion Games:

TeamPtsRebAsstMinFoul
Columbia13106300
Quincy19113291


Jada Thorpe Exhibition Games:

TeamPtsRebAsstMinFoul
Columbia1641281
Quincy1100222


Probable Starters With Last Year’s Stats:

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
5’7”GSrElizabeth Lutz33.811.64.7
5’9”GRJrJada Thorpe29.411.23.0
6’1”CSrAlissa Dins10.72.42.4
5’9”GJrAnna Deets22.06.82.0
6’0”FRJrKennedy Flanagan9.12.51.0


Others With Last Years Stats:

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
5’10”FSoZareia Chevre5.61.01.1
5’8”GJrMallory McDermitt12.74.81.0
5’8”GFAllie MeadowsDNP
5’9”GFAddi BrownfieldDNP
5’9”GSrCarla FloresDNP
 


Ignatius L Hoops

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Kent Youngblood's preview:

How well can this team do?

"I would say top half of the Big Ten," Borowicz said. From the time the group starting working out together in the summer, she has been promising a team that, closer as a group than last year's, was going to surprise. She has not backed down a bit from that.
[...]
That [injuries] has left Minnesota without much depth in the post behind Micheaux and transfer Destinee Oberg. That has meant having Heyer play a lot at power forward; there will be times and situations in which she will be asked to defend opposing centers.
 





adamj95

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Braun got on a little bit of a roll there at the end of the 1st. 9 points for her so far. 17-9 lead after 1. 6-18 shooting so definitely a case of nerves or playing too fast. They just need to settle in and hit some easy shots.
 

Bfan

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Mara Braun makes a sneaky steal for the layup. She's good.

Such a perfect shooting guard: shoots 3s, steals balls, can assist like a point guard.

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adamj95

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Are these announcers ok? Gophers football?
 



Bobek

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I think it was the Fighting Leathernecks that I saw vs. the run and gun Marlene Stollings Gophers 6-7 years ago. That was when I learned that Stollings didn’t focus much on defense and the team would just hoist up 25-30 foot shots with 15 seconds left on the shot clock, despite the dominant Amanda Zahui B on the floor. The Leathernecks had two really good players and believe the Gophers barely won. Never was a Stollings fan after that game, given the undisciplined style. For the nights the shots didn’t go down they couldn’t win on defense..
 


Bfan

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At the half, Micheaux has 8 rebounds, is 2-2 on field goals, and 2-2 on free throws (assuming the stats are right).


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Aesop70

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Sloppiness in the 4th is disconcerting. Might need to work on conditioning.
 

Bfan

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Here was an interesting series of events.

Micheaux grabs the rebound and throws to Cayton.

Cayton dribbles in and pulls the defense, then she throws a sneaky deadly pass without the defense realizing it, like a savvy veteran, to an open Micheaux who scores.

Then Micheaux on defense steals the ball and runs for a layup.

Boom boom boom.

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Bfan

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Some observations, not meant to be a game recap.

Micheaux had a double double. Micheaux clearly has a big future ahead.

Braun had 4 steals plus everything else she did.

Gradwell missed several long shots but I still like that she got good looks and fired. Power forward Heyer also stretched out for three 3's and missed them but, again, I like the 3-pointers. The point guard Borowicz was 4-6 at 3's. That's a strategy, if the long shots are dropping, can upset a top ranked opponent.

Western Illinois had 5 offensive rebounds, which is better defense for the Gophers than last week's 10.

Hammond on 11 minutes was 2-3 field goals.

For me, what matters is the win-loss record NEXT season. This season, just play ball and get a little better each month. The miscues matter less to me than what we can see emerging.

If I have this right, 4 freshmen and 1 sophomore started. They looked polished for that lineup.

Destination 2023-24.

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Belzx009

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Gradwell actually started. However same difference they are young. I want them to win these early season games. There is no reason they shouldn’t. Freshman are the real deal. My take on the team. Means nothing ha

Borowicz has started both games a little too hyped, but I thought she had a good 2nd half.

Braun is soooo good. Not an amazing shooting night but she is so smooth.

Battle. 9 assisted. She is so calm.

Rose she is looking better and better. Physically strong. And I thought she attacked he rebounds tonight. Good stuff.

Heyer she is the quiet killer. Nothing flashy but does a lot of nice things.

Gradwell didn’t do a lot tonight, but I’m enjoying her.

Oberg saw the court well. Solid minutes. All posts need to finish better.

Czinano doing some things better then I thought she would this year, but then tried to do too much. As a whole she is ahead of where I expected her.

Hammond I mean 4 points is good. Still not expecting much from her.

Cayton really nice to have back. That pass to Rose was awesome. He definitely understands defense pretty well. Hope she can give 10 minutes a game.

They got very complacent in the 2nd half. But as I think was mentioned. Maybe tired….I thought maybe coach was trying different lineups. Just lost a flow for a while. However finishing strong after that was a positive for me. I love the length the guards bring. There just seems to be arms everywhere. Minnesota did it right with this schedule. Teach them to win first. I’m very excited for this season.
 


Ignatius L Hoops

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Having the scoreboard stats conk out early in the game sucks. It happens way too often at Williams and in the Pav.

Anyway, Cayton with the play of the night (we'll take whatever minutes she can play), Katie with some remember me rainbow threes and Rose looked better as the game progressed. What can you say about Braun except recruit some players to play with her.

Western Illinois was terrible at shooting open threes. They were getting the shots they wanted. Our three point defense was not causing them to miss.

It's fun to watch the mixing and matching. I'm not sure how it will pan out.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Katie B added some unintented humor. The first occured whenshe was the only person in the arena thinking the ball had to be in-bounded. The second occured when every one in the arena thought she was going to launch a wide open three and then Katie passed it to a spot vacated by Heyer.
 

adamj95

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So much better to start the year 1-0 instead of 0-1. Last years first game of the season left such a bad taste in the mouth, this one is just so much better. Lots to improve on but a great start.
 

Bfan

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So much better to start the year 1-0 instead of 0-1. Last years first game of the season left such a bad taste in the mouth, this one is just so much better. Lots to improve on but a great start.
That is a great point. Last season seemed to start "off' or not centeres for some reason.
 

Bfan

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Having the scoreboard stats conk out early in the game sucks. It happens way too often at Williams and in the Pav.

Anyway, Cayton with the play of the night (we'll take whatever minutes she can play), Katie with some remember me rainbow threes and Rose looked better as the game progressed. What can you say about Braun except recruit some players to play with her.

Western Illinois was terrible at shooting open threes. They were getting the shots they wanted. Our three point defense was not causing them to miss.

It's fun to watch the mixing and matching. I'm not sure how it will pan out.

Great insights.
 

Bfan

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Gradwell actually started. However same difference they are young. I want them to win these early season games. There is no reason they shouldn’t. Freshman are the real deal. My take on the team. Means nothing ha

Borowicz has started both games a little too hyped, but I thought she had a good 2nd half.

Braun is soooo good. Not an amazing shooting night but she is so smooth.

Battle. 9 assisted. She is so calm.

Rose she is looking better and better. Physically strong. And I thought she attacked he rebounds tonight. Good stuff.

Heyer she is the quiet killer. Nothing flashy but does a lot of nice things.

Gradwell didn’t do a lot tonight, but I’m enjoying her.

Oberg saw the court well. Solid minutes. All posts need to finish better.

Czinano doing some things better then I thought she would this year, but then tried to do too much. As a whole she is ahead of where I expected her.

Hammond I mean 4 points is good. Still not expecting much from her.

Cayton really nice to have back. That pass to Rose was awesome. He definitely understands defense pretty well. Hope she can give 10 minutes a game.

They got very complacent in the 2nd half. But as I think was mentioned. Maybe tired….I thought maybe coach was trying different lineups. Just lost a flow for a while. However finishing strong after that was a positive for me. I love the length the guards bring. There just seems to be arms everywhere. Minnesota did it right with this schedule. Teach them to win first. I’m very excited for this season.
Great assessments.
 


Bfan

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The analyst dude is really struggling even though it sounds like he is just reading media releases.
Lol. I think he called them Gophers football. Well, maybe it was first time learning.
 

walleye

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I thought it was an exciting game. Lots of energy. It is great to see the potential in these players and their many great plays. There were sloppy moments probably caused by first college game jitters and still learning the system and teammates. What I like the best was that they were sharing the ball and trying to set up teammates. We haven't seen a Gopher team do a good job of sharing the ball for a long time. Go Gophers.
 





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