The Eastern women’s basketball team has momentum from a two game winning streak and is in the middle of the race for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament when it hosts Southern Illinois Edwardsville on Saturday.
Eastern is still on the outside looking in for the conference tournament berth, but the wins against Tennessee-Martin and Southeast Missouri have them trending in the right direction. The Panthers have a record of 7-13 overall and 3-5 record in the OVC. Southern Illinois Edwardsville is 8-13 with a 4-4 record in the OVC.
Last time out for Eastern, they defeated Southeast Missouri 71-62 behind senior Erica Brown’s double-double. Brown had 13 rebounds and 13 points along with 3 assists in the victory. Junior guard Grace Lennox had a team-high 18 points and 5 assists in the game. Freshman Allison Van Dyke played a good overall game with 9 rebounds and 7 points
Eastern coach Debbie Black is using this week long break without the midweek game for the Panthers as an opportunity to work on things more and give players like Lennox, Brown and Van Dyke a rest because of the minutes they have been playing.
“I kind of like our break right now and I like the fact that we are home on Saturday. The timing for us happens to be really, really good,” Black said. “We get to work on a couple things that we needed to and also get a couple days of preparation.”
The Cougars are on a three-game winning streak with wins over Southeast Missouri, Tennessee-Martin and Tennessee State. The wins over Southeast Missouri and Tennessee-Martin came by three combined points. The win over Tennessee State was a blowout victory 73-52.
The Cougars are going to be one of the more physical teams in the OVC the Panther will see.
“SIUE is going to be a little more physical than we’ve seen in the league,” Black said. “I think that will be an interesting task for us.”
The leading scorers for the Cougars are Donshel Beck, Lauren White and Nakiah Bell. Beck is the leading scorer with 13.8 points per game and is also the leading rebounder on the team with 7.2 rebounds per game. White is averaging 12.5 points per game and averages a team high 1.8 steals per game. Bell averages 10.2 points a game and leads the team with four assists per game.
Southern Illinois Edwardsville got the best of Eastern last season sweeping the season series by scores of 87-75 and 66-56. Beck was a problem for the Panthers in both games scoring double-digit points.
Aside from Belmont, which is still undefeated in conference, the middle seeds of the conference tournament are still very much up for grabs.
“We are all in the picture right now and it is really who shows up and who finishes,” Black said. “I think the last few games proved a little bit to our team that we can finish. I was worried that we haven’t been finishing.”
The game is set to begin Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Lantz Arena.
Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]