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Western Illinois Athletics | December 19, 2017

Western Illinois notches first-ever ranked win

  The Leathernecksk toppled No. 18 Stanford in Palo Alto.

STANFORD, Calif. — 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."

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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.

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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.