Women’s basketball beats Indiana State in exhibition

Sophomore+Danielle+Berry+takes+the+ball+up+court+with+freshman+Taylor+Steele.+Eastern+beat+Indiana+State+77-70.+Berry+finished+with+6+points.

Sean Hastings

Sophomore Danielle Berry takes the ball up court with freshman Taylor Steele. Eastern beat Indiana State 77-70. Berry finished with 6 points.

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

There was one main idea the Eastern women’s basketball team had heading into its exhibition contest with Indiana State Friday evening; play better against the Sycamores than they did last year.

A simple idea, but one the Panthers could not have executed any better.

Senior Grace Lennox had 25 points on 9-16 shooting as she led the Panthers to a 77-70 over Indiana State in a redemption game from last season’s 88-61 blowout loss to the Sycamores.

Before the game, Panthers head coach Matt Bollant just wanted to see how his new team would play defensively against the Sycamores, as he was not impressed with the 88 total points and 29 first quarter points the Panthers allowed last season.

Shaving 18 points off the total they allowed last year and holding Indiana State to 26-60 shooting gave Bollant the improvement he hoped to see.

The Panthers had a slight defensive lapse in the third quarter when they surrendered 23 points, but rebounded in the fourth, holding Indiana State to just 12 points.

“I was really proud of the fourth quarter. We didn’t defend very well in the third quarter, and I felt like we gave up 23 in the third and challenged them at the end of the quarter,” Bollant said. “You are not going to win this game if you give up 23 in the fourth. And I thought we were a lot better and just were smarter defensively and just did a better job of being in the right spots.”

Eastern was down 58-56 heading into the fourth quarter, and the deficit rose to 64-58 before a series of key plays and three-pointers by Lennox and junior Carmen Tellez changed the tide of the game completely.

With 7:10 to play in the game, Lennox brought the Panthers within four at 64-60 after driving left and making a layup through a group of Sycamore defenders.

Tellez then pushed the score to 64-63 with 6:35 to play, knocking down a wide open 3-point shot. She finished with 17 points in the game on 5-10 shooting from beyond the arc.

It was Tellez that would give Eastern its first, and only lead the team needed in the fourth quarter, when she drove the basket on a fast break, converting a layup and drawing a flagrant foul.

Lennox shot the free throws on the play for Tellez, she made one and missed one making the score 66-64 in Eastern’s favor.

Tellez made another 3-pointer with four minutes to play and Lennox made two more of her own before the game was over, sealing the game and win for Eastern.

Sophomore Jennifer Nehls quietly turned in a solid game as well. She had nine points, seven rebounds and six assists and was key in stopping Indiana State’s dangerous frontcourt in Wendi Bibbins and Ashley Taia.

Bollant has said that Nehls is the team most improved player from last season and said the Nehls the team saw in this game will be the one to expect the rest of the season.

“She is just such a warrior. She goes so hard all the time and you know she is going to get better because she gives you her best every single day,” Bollant said.

Taia, who was the Sycamore’s leading scorer last season, was held to 10 points on just 3-11 shooting.

Bibbins however lived up to her reputation as one of the best players in the MVC. She had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

The game has no impact on either Eastern’s or Indiana State’s record.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]