Panthers ready for final game of season

Mark Shanahan, Women's Basketball Reporter

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The Eastern women’s basketball team will travel to Southern Illinois Edwardsville on Saturday for its final game of the season.

Both the Panther’s and the Cougars are heading into the matchup on winning streaks. Eastern (9-18, 5-10 OVC) defeated Austin Peay 78-73 in overtime last Saturday to snap a three game losing streak. Eastern was led by junior Grace Lennox who nearly averaged a double-double with 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Eastern had a double digit lead at the half, but did not score for almost five minutes in the third quarter, letting Austin Peay right back into the game.

Strong defensive play by Eastern helped limit Austin Peay to just three points in the overtime period. All three points came from the free-throw line; Austin Peay was 0-for-7 from the field.

Southern Illinois Edwardsville (12-16, 8-7 OVC) is coming off of a successful week where they knocked off Austin Peay at home and Murray State on the road. Nakiah Bell scored a career-high 23 points in the game against Murray State to lead the Cougars to victory. Bell hit five three-pointers and finished 9 of 15 from the field. A big advantage from Southern Illinois Edwardsville was its rebounding against Murray State, outrebounding the Racers 50-27.

Bell was honored on Tuesday as the Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week, as she averaged 17.5 points in the two victories. Bell shot 66.7 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from three-point range while adding seven assists on the week.

Donshel Beck is the leading scorer and rebounder for Southern Illinois Edwardsville. Beck is averaging 14.6 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. Beck is eighth in the Ohio Valley Conference in both scoring and rebounding. Lauren White is averaging 12.3 rebounds per game and Bell is averaging 10.7 to round out the Cougars top scorers.

Southern Illinois Edwardsville is a top rebounding team in the conference and is second in rebounding margin. The Cougars are top five in both offensive and defensive rebounding.

Eastern’s offense is led by Lennox ,who averages 16.6 points per game, which is third best in the OVC. Senior Erica Brown is averaging 11.8 points per game and is tied for the top spot in the conference for rebounding, as she averages 8 rebounds per game.

Eastern hosted Southern Illinois Edwardsville on Jan. 18 and lost 75-59. The Cougars dominated the paint outscoring the Panther’s 42-24. They also won the rebounding battle over the Panther’s 38-28. Eastern trailed by just one point at the half, but they did not have an answer for the Cougars in the second half.

The game is set to tip-off at 2 p.m. in Edwardsville, Ill.

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