Oroszova’s buzzer-beater lifts Panthers over Gamecocks

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

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Sabina Oroszova hit a 3-point shot as time expired to give the Panthers a 66-63 win over Jacksonville State Saturday afternoon in Lantz Arena.

Grace Lennox, who passed the ball to Oroszova for the game-winner, said when she had the ball her plan was to pass it to her, because she did not have an open shot.

“I obviously knew that we needed a shot,” Lennox said. “When Bh’rea threw me the ball after an awesome save, I was not in the best position to shoot the ball. It’s all a little blurry, but I guess I just saw sabs to my left and knew that she had a much better shot than I did. Sabi has been in the gym putting in extra work every day, notably on the shooting, so she deserves to hit that shot.”

Before hitting that shot, Oroszova was 4-of-12 from the floor and was just held to 10 points up until that point. She finished the game with 13.

Arnisha Thomas and Erica Brown shot a combined 15-of-26 for a combined for 20 and 22 points respectively.  Thomas played the entire game, while Brown played every minute but two on the day.

After leading the entire second half, the Panthers continued to hold that lead for the rest of the game.

Arnisha Thomas made a layup to give the Panthers their biggest lead of the game at 57-49 with 6:48 left in the second half.

Jacksonville State would go on an 8-0 run for the next four minutes to tie the game at 57 with 2:58 left by a couple of free throws by Courtney Strain.

The Panthers pushed the lead back up to four on a layup by Erica Brown, then Jacksonville State would tie the game with 10 seconds remaining in the second half.

Both teams struggled from the free throw line in the game as Eastern went 5-of-12 and Jacksonville State went 8-of-19.

After losing six straight games, the Panthers have won the last two, which both were conference games and are now atop the OVC standings as of Saturday night at 2-0.

This is the first time since 2012 the Panthers have won their first two games on the conference part of the schedule, and Lennox said this is a huge confidence booster for her team.

“Having a tough non-conference schedule and an undesirable record put us all in the lows a bit,” she said. “We knew that we had been given a tough schedule and that the conference was what we were working for.  Therefore it is huge for us that we have started off well.”

Lennox also said that her team has just improved over these last two games with their ball movement, defense and offensive transition.

“I feel those have been key factors that have led us to solid basketball,” she said. “Another element that isn’t basketball specific is the way we have been sticking together and pushing on when things don’t go our way. We struggled with the earlier on in the season but have really improved on it throughout the last few games.”

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].