Women’s basketball team begins tough road stretch

Mark Shanahan, Assistant Sports Editor

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Junior guard Grace Lennox defends against a Cleveland State’s Khayla Livingston Wednesday in Lantz Arena. The Panthers lost 66-56, and Lennox led the Panthers with 15 points.

Justin Brown
Junior guard Grace Lennox defends against a Cleveland State’s Khayla Livingston Wednesday in Lantz Arena. The Panthers lost 66-56, and Lennox led the Panthers with 15 points.

The three-game road trip begins for the Eastern women’s basketball team with a visit to Western on Saturday.

Western will arguably be one of the best opponents the Panthers have faced up to this point in the season.

The Leathernecks are 7-3 this season with a perfect 4-0 record at home. Eastern is 4-6 and on a four-game losing streak after losing to Cleveland State on Wednesday.

Eastern coach Debbie Black called the next three games against Western, New Mexico and Cincinnati some of the toughest games on the schedule.

“The next three games are probably going to be the toughest on our schedule; it doesn’t get easier from here,” Black said. “Western Illinois — they’re a very confident team, they’re feisty and they play hard. If we’re not ready to start this game, it will not be pretty.”

Western is on a two-game winning streak after a huge 118-40 win over Graceland University on Wednesday night. Although it was a lesser opponent, the Leathernecks had five players in double-figures led by Emily Clemens with 23 points and 11 assists, followed by Morgan Blumer (18), Taylor Higginbotham (15), Taylor Hanneman (13) and Olivia Kaufmann (12).

The most impressive stat for Western was the 63 rebounds the Leathernecks had in the game. This stat tied for the third all-time in program history for rebounds in a single game.

Western also tied for fourth in program history with its 33 team assists on Wednesday.

Black said after the loss on Wednesday that she thought her defense played well but did not get the rebounds when they needed them.

“If there is a positive I can take out of this, I think our defense was good except for when you defend, you have to finish off with those rebounds, and I think (Cleveland State) got those rebounds exactly when we didn’t need them to get the rebound, and that really kills you,” Black said.

After starting off the year 4-2, Eastern has fallen off track. Black said they need to jump out in front against Western to avoid extending this losing streak.

“Hopefully we’re ready to jump out there and start playing our brand of basketball,” Black said. “We kind of lost a step, and I thought we started out the season well, and we just don’t want to make this a spiraling down effect.”

Missed layups are a thing that Black said they need to do better because it is the little things that could hurt you. The game is set to start at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Western.

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