Underclassmen need to step up for women’s basketball


Sean Hastings

Freshman Grace McRae drives to the basket through two Indiana State defenders in the Panthers’ 77-70 win over Indiana State Nov.3 in Lantz Arena. McRae finished with 5 points.

Kaitlin Cordes, Women's Basketball Reporter

The Eastern women’s basketball team is without senior guard Grace Lennox and junior guard Carmen Tellez because of injury.

Without the team’s leading scorer and one of the squad’s biggest rebounders, the underclassmen need to step up to salvage what’s left of the season.

The Panthers were handed their 12th straight loss Saturday when Eastern Kentucky snatched a 67-51 win over the struggling Eastern team. Scoring was lacking on Eastern’s side with a four-point first quarter attesting to the team’s difficulty posting points.

Lennox last played on Dec. 18 when the team traveled to Fort Wayne, Ind., where she once again was the squad’s leading scorer with 25 points total.

Eastern has played seven games without Lennox and Lennox is still a top scorer on the team with her 123-point total ranking third overall on the roster.

Freshman guard Taylor Steele and sophomore forward Jennifer Nehls are the leading scorers with 132 and 131 points, respectively.

Steele and Nehls are the two players the Panthers need to push through the remaining games without Lennox and Tellez. Nehls has already secured a spot as a dominating rebounder as she owns the team-high 72 rebounds on the season.

Nehls can also help the Panthers at the free throw line; she is .688 percent at the stripe, second only to Steele who is shooting .767 percent from the free throw line.

Steele notched 13 points against Eastern Kentucky, and she scored a season-high of three made three-pointers. She has yet to repeat her season-high 21 points in one game, but Steele has already shown she has the ability to do so.

Eastern’s bench has shown it can handle a heavy workload with players like freshman guard Karle Pace and junior forward Halle Stull making waves in the Panther’s scorebook.

Pace and Stull were both powerhouses for the Panthers last Saturday despite the Panther’s loss to the Colonels. Pace notched her season-high nine points and pulled down four rebounds of her own. Stull lead the scoring, putting up 16 of the 18 bench points by Eastern.

Stull was also four-of-five from beyond the arc. Her back-to-back threes in the second quarter provided Eastern with an extra boost to whittle down Eastern Kentucky’s 28-point lead.

If there is any bright spot to be found in Eastern’s dreary season, it should be that the bench mostly made of underclassmen does not waiver in the face of a challenge. The bench players are willing to battle through tough games without the team’s leading scorer.

If anything, that tenacity should attest to the team’s cohesiveness. The team’s chemistry is undeniable when they are on the court.

What the Panthers need to do now is to rethink their offense. They need to recreate plays to open up space for a scoring opportunity that doesn’t involve Lennox. Eastern should make use of the assets they have remaining without the performances of Lennox and Tellez.

While these changes may not turn the season around completely, they will give Eastern a fighting chance and a few more wins.

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