Panthers need more aggression defensively


Karina Delgado

Grace Lennox cuts into the lane before converting on the layup in the Panthers’ 67-52 loss to Bradley Tuesday night in Lantz Arena. Lennox had 19 points in the loss.

Kaitlin Cordes, Women's Basketball Reporter

Eastern women’s basketball senior forward Jalisha Smith played an aggressive game Tuesday night in the Panthers’ 67-52 loss to Bradley.

Although Smith was not a top scorer for Eastern, she snatched some big steals, one resulting in a made three by freshman guard Taylor Steele. Smith pulled out three steals total in her 16 minutes of play.

Smith’s aggressive play paid off, too, as coach Matt Bollant said Smith will start in the team’s next game against Fort Wayne.

Steals seemed to be the only saving grace for the Panthers at times when the steals led to shots off the glass. Sophomore guard Danielle Berry had team-high five steals, and the rest fell in the hands of junior guard Carmen Tellez, sophomore forward Jennifer Nehls and freshman forward Grace McRae who had one each.

Shots were not falling for the Panthers, especially in the first half where the team shot for just 11-31 from the field. Getting the ball out of Bradley’s hands was key, and when the Panthers did just that, the Braves became flustered, especially in the second half.

Smith was a bright spot in the middle of the second quarter when she dove over two Bradley defenders to lay the ball in to put up the Panther’s first points of the quarter. Smith followed this up with her second steal of the game.

Smith kept the momentum going the a few plays later when she pulled down a rebound off of a missed shot by Nehls, tipping the ball to Steele who ended up missing a jumper.

Eastern dominated in the steals column, topping the Braves 11-2. Bradley’s newcomers Nyjah White and Emily Marsh were the only two to take the ball away from the Panthers.

If the Panthers can keep up an aggressive, confident approach, Bollant said his team would preform better on the court. He said his team needs to bring the hard work from practice into a game more often, too.

That kind of aggressive play displayed by Smith and Berry made for a better second half. However, the Panther defense lacked in aggression; some of Bradley’s shots, including several threes, were put up uncontested. Those uncontested shots from beyond the arc resulted in eight made threes.

The rest of the team should take a cue from Smith, Berry and senior guard Grace Lennox and realize they do have what it takes to make a solid basketball squad. Smith, Berry and Lennox hashed out Eastern’s major plays tonight and put up the most points along with Steele.

A quick-paced, aggressive playing style would benefit the team tremendously. Most teams that the Panthers have lost to this season play this way, and Eastern had no answer for it. Perhaps Tuesday’s loss can be a lesson in confidence for the Panthers.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]