Win streak on the line against Indiana State

Mark Shanahan, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Eastern women’s basketball team eclipsed its win total from last season with a 74-60 win over Illinois-Springfield on Saturday afternoon to improve to 4-2.

Junior guard Grace Lennox led the Panthers to their second straight victory with a career high 26 points on Saturday. Lennox was one of four Panthers to finish in double figures against Illinois-Springfield as well as junior Jalisha Smith, freshman Allison Van Dyke and senior Erica Brown.

Smith added her second-straight double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Van Dyke continued her impressive freshman season with her first career double-double, scoring 15 points and 12 rebounds. Van Dyke has reached double digits in all of the first six games.

Eastern used a big first quarter outscoring Illinois-Springfield 21-5 behind Lennox who scored 10 in the first. Illinois-Springfield fought back in the second quarter making the deficit manageable trailing 39-27 at the half.

The Panthers would not let up though as they shot 44 percent from 3-point range in the second half leading them to another victory. Illinois-Springfield outrebounded Eastern 45-38 in the game, but Eastern was dominant in the paint outscoring Illinois-Springfield 30-12.

Prior to the Illinois-Springfield game, Eastern traveled to Florida for games against Stetson and Florida A&M. The Panthers were able to split the Florida road trip, as they lost to Stetson 72-55 on Nov. 19, and they defeated Florida A&M 66-50 on Nov. 22.

Eastern had Sunday off but is back in Lantz Arena tonight with Indiana State coming to town to wrap up the two-game home stand. Indiana State is 2-3 this season, and they hosted Eastern last season beating them 60-42. The Sycamores will be playing their fourth game of a five-game road trip that has not been very kind to them.

They split the first two games and are now on a two-game losing after blowout losses to Missouri and Nebraska-Omaha. Indiana State has done well on the defensive end, averaging 4.8 blocks per game. McKenzy Telfair leads the team with four blocks this season followed by teammate Rhagen Smith who has three.

On the offensive side, forward Wendi Bibbins has almost averaged a double-double in each game this season. Bibbins is averaging 8.2 rebounds and 8.6 points per game. She has also been efficient with the shots she takes shooting 48.6 percent from the field.

The Panthers counter Indiana State with a balanced offense that has four players averaging at least 11 points a game. Van Dyke leads all Eastern scorers with 12.8 points per game followed by Lennox who averages 12 per game after her big performance on Saturday.

Smith and Brown are among the Panther top scorers but have been the teams leading rebounders as well. Brown averages 8 rebounds per game while Smith averages 7.3.

The game is set to tip off at 6 p.m. tonight at Lantz Arena.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]