Panthers to host Murray State in final home game of season

Mark Shanahan , Women's Basketball Reporter

The Eastern women’s basketball team will host the Murray State Racers on Wednesday night for its last home game of the season.

The Panthers’ have dropped their last two games and are currently on the outside looking in for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. Eastern (8-17, 4-9 OVC) is in last place and two games behind the eighth seed. They will need to win the last three games of the season to have a chance for them to reach the final spot of the tournament in early March.

Murray State (14-11, 6-6 OVC) will not be an easy first task. The Racer’s are currently on a two game winning streak after beating Eastern Kentucky and Austin Peay at home. Murray State is tied for fourth in the OVC with Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky has played one less conference game than Eastern.

Eastern traveled to Murray State earlier this season on Jan. 11 and they were beaten 92-74. The Racer’s offense was hitting on all cylinders in the first matchup and recorded 23 assists in the win. Ke’Shunan James fell an assist short of a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. LeAsia Wright led the Racer’s with 24 points along with four steals. The 92 points scored against the Panthers’ is the most for the Racers this year against Division I opponents.

Bria Bethea had 16 points and Abria Gulledge had 13 points to round out the players to reach double figures for Murray State. They outrebounded the Panthers’ 40-34. Eastern had four players reach double digits in the last meeting with Murray State. Freshman Allison Van Dyke led the offense with 16 points along with five rebounds. Junior Grace Lennox (15), senior Erica Brown (14) and freshman Jennifer Nehls (13) were the other Panthers’ to reach double figures.

The last time out for Eastern, they were beaten by Southeast Missouri 107-65. The Panthers’ could not stop Southeast Missouri’s three-point shooting in the game and gave up 100 points for the first time in three years. Lennox, Brown and sophomore Halle Stull each reached double digit scoring in the game. Freshman Zharia Lenior earned OVC Freshman of the Week honors as she averaged 13.5 points and shot 70.6 percent from the floor last week.

Murray State is coming off of a 67-62 victory over Austin Peay at home. James led the Racers with 28 points along with eight rebounds. Bethea added 19 points and Gulledge recorded a game-high 11 rebounds. James earned OVC Player of the Week honors on Tuesday.

The Panthers’ are shooting 42.5 percent from the field and just under 31 percent from 3-point range. Lennox is the team’s leading scorer with 16.1 points per game and 4.5 assists per game. Brown is second on the team at 11.4 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per contest.

Murray State is shooting 42 percent from the field as a team and 32 percent from 3-point range. James is the team’s leading scorer with 19.9 points per game and also averages 7.2 rebounds per contest. Wright is second on the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game. Wright has a team-high 57 3-pointers this season.

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