No need for panic in women’s basketball team

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor


Before the Eastern women’s basketball season started I wrote a piece detailing how much better the perennial losing program would be this season under the guidance of new head coach Matt Bollant and even after the teams 1-5 start, I am sticking with my prediction.

I questioned my prediction a couple of times this season, especially after the team’s ugly loss to Delaware Nov. 26. But, after taking a step back and taking a breath, my evaluation of the team remains the same, they will be better, they have been better, they are just the unfortunate victims of a tough schedule.

The excuse its too early to tell how the team is, is not the issue here, what makes it difficult to assess the team so far this season has been the context of the games they are playing.

Eastern opened the regular season with a blowout 93-64 loss to Northern Illinois. If you take that game for its surface level information, it looks bad. The Panthers lost by 29 points and the Huskies carved through the Eastern’s defense like a warm knife through butter.

But, what is important to understand about that game is that Northern Illinois is one of the best mid-major programs in the country with the best offense Eastern will play all season. The Panthers knew before the game they had their work cut out for them and they were probably outmatched.

This was the case in not only the Northern Illinois game, but actually almost every game they’ve played this season. The 81-46 loss to Wright State, Eastern knew it was outmatched. The team’s 80-62 loss to St. Joseph’s, the Panthers said that would be the best team they would play all season.

The one loss that is difficult to justify is the 66-37 loss to Delaware Eastern had on Nov. 27. That loss is so bad however, I think it can be removed from consideration when evaluating the team. Eastern shot 18 percent total from the field and a nearly unthinkable 9.5 percent from three-point range.

The game was described by Bollant as being one where simply the team could not make shots. Any game, in any sport for that matter, where a team plays that terrible is probably just a flash in the pan game.

Despite what their record shows on paper, this team and coach are better than they were last season, and many of the seasons before that.

Senior guard Grace Lennox has been the same old Grace Lennox this season, which is a good thing for the Panthers. She is coming off her best game of the season in Eastern’s loss to Cleveland State where she scored 24 points, and added five assists and five steals.

However, its been the play around Lennox that has Eastern trending upward.

Sophomore forward Jennifer Nehls has taken a big step upward this season, as predicted by Bollant before the season.

She is averaging 8.7 points per game, 4.5 rebounds and has been much more open shooting the ball this season.

Junior guard Carmen Tellez has been off and on shooting the ball this season, but eventually she will return to form and when that happens the team will be closer to where they want to be this season.

Freshman like Taylor Steele and Grace McRae have been getting plenty of playing time starting and off the bench.

As the newcomers continue to develop and the veterans continue to make contributions, the team’s improvement from last season will be very evident by the end of the year.

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