Eastern seeking redemption after loss


Sean Hastings

Eastern foward Jennifer Nehls drives the basket in a game against Northern Illinois at Lantz Arena Nov. 10. Nehls scored eight points and snagged four rbounds in the Panthers season-opening loss.

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

Murphy’s law and the Eastern women’s basketball team met in a head-on collision that resulted in the team suffering an 81-46 lopsided loss at the hands of Wright State in the team’s last game Nov. 14.

Anything that could go wrong for a basketball team in a game went wrong for the Panthers. They missed shots, did not rebound and defensively they were not able to limit Wright State much at all. In short, it was just one of those days for Eastern.

There is not much a team can do after  a loss other than try to grow from it, and this is exactly what Eastern has done, using the loss to fuel a strong week of practice ahead of its weekend match with Evansville.

In practice this week, Eastern coach Matt Bollant remined his team that basketball is a relative game and his team had just played two programs in Wright State and Northern Illinois that were “significantly better” than the Panthers at this point. But Bollant believes the Panthers have a more favorable match coming up against Evansville.

“We probably could have played better than we did, but you’re not going to look great when you’re playing against teams that are significantly better than you,” Bollant said. “So, now we have got a chance against Evansville, a team that we are a little more evenly matched with, and let’s see how good we can play.”

What separates Evansville from Northern Illinois and Wright State is the makeup of the roster.

Both Northern Illinois and Wright State have very strong post presences, and it showed against Eastern as both teams torched the Panthers in the paint scoring- and rebounding-wise.

Evansville, however, is more guard-oriented. The Purple Aces rely on spreading the ball around the court and three-point shooting, something they do very well as a team. They lead the Missouri Valley Conference ,shooting 40 percent from the beyond the arc.

Evansville guard Hannah Noe is the focal point of the offense and is the main reason for the team’s efficiency in three-point shooting this season. Noe is leading the team with 21 points per game and is shooting 42 percent from the three-point line.

Noe is not the only guard on Evansville who opponents have to worry about shutting down. Her counterpart Kerri Gasper is second in the conference with 4.5 assists per game. She is shooting 50 percent from three-point range as she serves as the second sharpshooter in the Purple Aces offense.

“They’re shooting 40 percent from the three-point line, they’ve made 14 threes in two games. Hannah Noe is 8-for-19, and Gasper can really shoot it as well,” Bollant said. “So they have a number of different kids that can shoot the basketball.”

What makes this a more favorable game for the Panthers is that they are much more equipped defensively to stop perimeter shooting offenses rather than post teams.

Eastern point guard Grace Lennox is one of the better perimeter defenders in the OVC and while streaky at times in the category, the Panthers have shown already this season they can match teams if need be in three-point shooting.

Evansville is 1-1 on the season. They beat Murray State to open the season 89-81 in a game. Bollant said they really dominated the Racers in until the end, and then the Purple Aces lost to Alabama A&M 70-56.

Eastern and Evansville play Saturday at Lantz Arena at 1 p.m.

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