WIU Basketball: Grounded group off to best start in 55 years - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

WIU Basketball: Grounded group off to best start in 55 years

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Jim Molinari says his Western Illinois squad has bought in to his defensive philosophy which has helped the Leathernecks jump out to a 12-3 start. Jim Molinari says his Western Illinois squad has bought in to his defensive philosophy which has helped the Leathernecks jump out to a 12-3 start.

MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) -- There's no secret to the success.

There's no magic wand hovering around the team.

This isn't just a good dream and Western Illinois will wake up surrounded by the miseries which have plagued the basketball program leaving them without an NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Leathernecks have built their 12-3 start to the season, their best in 55 years, on defense.

Jim Molinari's squad is giving up only 51 points a game and boasts the third best scoring defense in all of NCAA Division I college basketball.

The consistent effort on the defensive end has allowed Western to be competitive night in and night out, and it's been the biggest factor in the team's nine-game winning streak.

"Any team that's great at anything they have a huge 'buy in' factor and they make it their identity," Molinari said. 

"I am proud of them but I think sometimes our guys need to do the little things a little better because they have such a feel for defense. But we have to get the little details down, I always tell them, 'the devil's is in the details.'" 

Western senior guard Ceola Clark claims there's no denying their intentions.

"When we get down we don't feel like we're in the hole," Clark said. 

"We've got down a few games and we've known if we just keep fighting, and dig down deep with each other, we can come back against anybody." 

With all the success have come accolades.

The Leathernecks are ranked No. 22 this week's Collegeinsider.com 'Mid-Major 25,' Molinari is getting attention from near and far, and the players are the talk around campus.

According to the team it's not a distraction, but rather a testament to how far they've come over the last few years.

"Coach (Molinari) always says, 'Don't drink the Kool Aid.' We know we can handle success as a team," senior forward Terell Park explained. 

"I feel we like being talked about and no one has really ever noticed Western Illinois since I've been here, and it just feels great for everybody to finally notice who we are and what we're about."

Molinari added: "I think this team is one of my better teams ever. It's a different team but I think we have two dominant players, and to have a great team you have to have a great point guard and you have to have to great rim protection, and that's what we have."

The Leathernecks will try and make it 10 consecutive wins, and eight victories in as many tries this season at Western Hall, when Greenville pays a visit Wednesday night.

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