Saturday evening UMKC faced off against a fellow member of the Summit League. Like the Roos, the Western Illinois Leathernecks had won their conference opener. The venue for this weekend’s tilt was the Swinney Recreation Center right here in Kansas City. Early on things did not look promising for the home team as the Leathernecks took a commanding lead and went into the break up by twelve. Just as they did against Albany in mid-November, UMKC mounted a comeback that ultimately came up short.
They trailed almost the entire game, but closed the gap to a single possession on a number of occasions. Every time Western Illinois built up a sizable lead the Roos would fight back and make it interesting. With just over three minutes to go, the two teams were separated by a single point but our hometown team could never quite get over the hump. Even though the Roos outscored the Leathernecks by seven in the second half they wound up losing 68-63.
The starting five for UMKC went 8-25 from the floor and scored just 26 points. Thankfully the Roos bench put in work and racked up 37. Senior Thomas Staton led the team with 15 points on 6-13 shooting in 23 minutes of action. Juniors Nelson Kirksey and Alton Tanner came off the bench to push their point totals into double digits with eleven and ten respectively despite only playing a combined 30 minutes.
For the Leathernecks, senior guard Ceola Clark followed up his 20 point effort against South Dakota by tying a career high with 27 points against UMKC. For the second straight game he was 8-13 from the floor and has hit on nine of 16 three point attempts between the two games. Clark was backed by fellow senior Terell Parks who turned in an impressive 15 point, 14 rebound effort. For Parks it was his second double-double of the year and pushed his season average up to 9.0 rebounds per game. Senior forward Jack Houpt also scored in double figures with eleven points.
The game was statistically close in most categories but Western Illinois held the advantage in the turnover battle 22-14 and shot 7-12 (58.3%) from beyond the arc. The Roos did make one more three pointer in the game but needed 21 attempts to get there. When you come up on the short end in those two areas, chances are you’re going to lose and that’s exactly what happened to UMKC. On a positive note, this team has shown an ability to fight their way back into games when they fall behind. While they were on the losing end here, and in the Albany game, that trait will serve them well as the season wears on.
The Roos (3-4, 1-1) will hit the road and return to non-conference action. They will play North Dakota (1-4) on Wednesday and then take on #5 Louisville (6-1) this coming Saturday. The Cardinals will be the second top five team UMKC will have faced off against this season.
Western Illinois (5-3, 2-0) also has games on slate for Wednesday and Saturday this week. Their first test will be a road game against the Ohio Valley’s Eastern Illinois Panthers (3-6) before they return home to host the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars (2-3).