MACOMB — It has been a strong start to the season for the Western Illinois men as the Leathernecks are off to a 3-0 start.
An opening-night victory at Big 10 foe Nebraska has highlighted the opening few games but so has WIU’s style of play.
The Leathernecks have been able to use size and strength, presenting a physical presence no foe has been able to match.
“We want to make people uncomfortable and keep guys in front and when we did that we were good,” WIU coach Rob Jeter said. “We’re trying to avoid getting two to the basketball unless we’re doubling down in the post and when we did those things we were pretty good.”
Western has been able to beat opponents up on the glass, especially on the offensive side as the Leathernecks have won the rebound battle in all three games.
“I feel like the biggest thing for us, last year we led the conference in offensive rebounding, and one of the top in the nation, so that’s what this team looks for, but Coach also emphasizes its a grit thing, you have to grit your teeth,” WIU’s Tamell Pearson said. “We’re a big team this year, especially adding Luka (Barisic), getting Cam (Burrell) back, me as well, Adam (Anhold), we emphasize getting the board and getting out.
“We believe the non-conference is to prepare you for the conference, we finished seventh in the conference and our conference is a bully-ball league, so for us to come out there and practice on it now, emphasize it now really prepares us for conference play.”
And with a hot start comes added expectations and attention.
For a program not used to that, Jeter is doing what he can to keep his squad focused on the main task at hand: getting better and ready for the Summit League.
“The toughest thing is, there’s so many voices, so many people around the guys, me included, my family as well, so we have to make sure we keep our guys locked into our voices, speak our language and stay there,” Jeter said. “If we can do that we’ll start to play a little better and we’ll have to because we are playing better competition.”
— SCOTT HOLLAND