The Eastern women’s basketball team started off the season strong with a 97-54 win over Millikin Friday night.
The Panthers had five players score in double-digits in the win, and everyone on the roster scored at least one basket.
The double-digit scorers were senior Erica Brown (14), junior Jalisha Smith (11), sophomore Brittin Boyer (10), and freshmen Allison Van Dyke (13) and Jennifer Nehls (12).
Brown said the win was a confidence boost for the team.
“Coming out in that first game the way we did, winning by that much,” Brown said, “that was a big confidence boost for us.”
Brown led the team with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. The Panthers never trailed in this game and jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the game.
Eastern finished the first quarter with a 25-16 lead, and Millikin stayed in the game thanks to the 3-pointer. Millikin went 4-5 from beyond the arc in the first quarter.
Millikin was able to stay within 10 points of the Panthers for the rest of the first half. The Panthers edged out Millikin on the score sheet in the second period 17-15.
Freshman Zharia Lenoir scored the final basket of the half for Eastern. She had nine points, three rebounds and two assists in her first collegiate game.
The freshmen Van Dyke, Nehls, Lenoir and Danielle Berry all played well in their first game.
Coach Debbie Black said they bring an edge that the team has lacked.
“I think that they bring us a different edge that we haven’t had — all four of them,” Black said.
Both teams shot 3-pointers well in the first half with Eastern going 5-for-8 and Millikin going 7-for-12.
The score at halftime was 42-31. Eastern picked it up in the third quarter starting it off with a 9-3 run and pushed its lead to 30.
Eastern had 26 assists in the game, and Black credited the team for being unselfish.
“This team was very unselfish tonight,” Black said. “Right across the board, no one really cared who scored.”
Brown left the game with a calf cramp in the second half and did not return, but Boyer stepped up in the 13 minutes she played.
The Panthers dominated in the paint, outscoring Millikin 47-18.
With everyone contributing for Eastern, they were able to get 44 points from their bench.
The women will be back in action on Monday night as they travel to take on Evansville.
Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]