Western Illinois' 10-game winning streak, 5-0 Summit League record and best start in Division I history are receiving attention. ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers gave the Fighting Leathernecks mention in part of his recent blog posting:
Western Illinois rolling: Who from the state could be dancing come March and is currently the hottest team in Illinois?
It may be a surprise to some, but the answer is Western Illinois.
Building off last year’s run to the Summit Conference championship
game and a CBI tournament appearance, the Leathernecks are 13-3 overall,
5-0 in conference and are currently riding a 10-game winning streak.
And it’s been defense that has put Western Illinois in such a
favorable spot. The Leathernecks rank second in the country in defense,
allowing 50.8 points a game. They’ve held four opponents to under 40
points and have only allowed one team more than 70 points.
“If you play defense in any sport, you have a chance to win,” said
fifth-year coach Jim Molinari. “We really take pride in defending.”
Western Illinois’ effort has been led by seniors Ceola Clark and
Terrell Parks. Clark is key to the top of the defense as the point
guard, and Parks, a center, is the rim protector. They’ve combined for
nearly three steals and three blocks per game.
Clark, who was a granted sixth year of eligibly this season due to
multiple injuries in his career, has a special place in Molinari’s
“I say this to people: for our system, I don’t think there’s a guard
in the country I would rather have than Ceola Clark,” Molinari said. “I
would think Jim Beilein would say the same thing about Trey Burke
because they like to run up and down. Because we pack our defense and
play a lot of ball-screen offense like we do, I wouldn’t want any other
than Ceola Clark.”