Oakland fell to Western Illinois 81-73 at the Athletics Center O’rena on Friday night.
Freshman guard Elena Popkey scored a career high 22 points. Junior guard Zakiya Minifee finished
with 10 points and six rebounds.
“Western just played really well,” head coach Beckie Francis said. “They hit key shots at key moments.
I felt like we had some of our top defenders on them and they still made shots.”
Oakland (6-7, 0-1) started off its Summit League opener slow, trailing 11-4 early on. Western Illinois
(7-5, 1-0) continued on a 12-4 run to extend their lead to 23-8.
The Grizzlies came within six, trimming the deficit to 25-19.
Western Illinois pulled away again, going on an 8-0 run to put themselves up 33-19. Western’s three-
point game had an impact as they were 4-6 shooting during that stretch.
“For every game we scout a team, we learn and we prepare,” Minifee said. “We know that Western is a
three-point shooting team and they just proved that tonight.”
Oakland answered by going on an 8-2 run and cutting WIU’s lead to 35-29. Oakland finished the first
half shooting 41 percent.
The Grizzlies pulled within one point before a last second three-pointer from Western Illinois senior
guard Saule Kontautaite gave the Leathernecks a four-point lead heading into halftime.
“We ended up crawling back,” Popkey said. “And when you crawl back like that you get that
momentum behind you and good things will happen.”
Junior guard Victoria Lipscomb started the second half scoring with a three-pointer to put Oakland
back within one point. Western remained in the driver’s seat, going on a 10-4 run to push their lead to
“They just hit shots,” Francis said. “You got to just give them credit. Some nights you hit, some nights
you don’t. That’s a dangerous team because they hit tonight and they were hitting from inside.”
Oakland continued to fight back in the second half. Popkey hit three 3-pointers within three minutes to
get the Grizzlies back to within five points with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
“She’s a big time player and competitor,” Francis said. “What I like about Elena is that she couldn’t
care less if she had a career night. That means nothing to her. All she cares about is winning. I’m glad
that she stepped up to help offensively with Olivia Nash out.”
Friday marked the fourth consecutive game without freshman forward Olivia Nash, who coach Francis
says hopes to be back on the court by next week.
Western Illinois secured their win after jumping back out to a 10-point lead. Junior guard Elizabeth
Hamlet made a layup at the final buzzer to bring the final score to 81-73.
E. Hamlet finished with 13 points and was 5-5 free throw shooting.
Despite the loss, Oakland had five less turnovers (13) than Western. They were evenly matched for
rebounds, both teams recording 37 each. Oakland’s bench outscored Western 20-12.
Sophomore guard Peyton Apsey was in the starting lineup for the first time since the UM-Dearborn
game. She finished with five points, four rebounds and three steals.
“She did a great job on the offensive boards,” Francis said. “I felt like her fight really sparked our
comeback. If we missed a shot, Peyton got in there and got an offensive rebound and was fighting.”
Oakland will continue conference play against IUPUI (7-6, 1-0) at the O’rena Dec. 30 at 2 p.m.