Notebook: Belmont tightens grip, Eastern tumbles in OVC

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

Chalk up two more ugly second halves and two more conference losses for the Eastern women’s basketball team, after a weekend where it lost to Belmont and Tennessee State thanks to two second half collapses which saw them shoot a combined 25.7 percent in the second half of those games.

Eastern has been prone to second half meltdowns this season, in the 10 conference games the Panthers have played this season, they are shooting 34.3 percent in the second half, and things are not trending in the right direction.

In Eastern’s last four games, all losses, it shot a mere 25.1 percent from the field after halftime versus 37.5 percent in the 1st half of those games.

The pair of road losses for the Panthers drops their conference record to 1-9 and puts them in a tie for last place in the OVC with Tennessee State.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the OVC, first-place Belmont disposed of its best challenger for the conference throne, Southern Illinois Edwardsville, 86-64 in Nashville, to keep its record a perfect 10-0 on the season.

The win for Belmont is not only its 35th consecutive conference win, but also a statement win that says the Bruins are still the juggernaut of the OVC, having handed Southern Illinois Edwardsville both of its conference losses this season in commanding fashion.

At near full health again, Belmont will be perched comfortably in first place, watching from the top of the standings as the rest of the conference jostles for the other seven tournament spots.

Morehead State and Jacksonville State won this weekend, moving their conference records to 7-3 on the season.

Murray State and Eastern Kentucky squared off in what might have been the most important match of the weekend outside of Belmont and Southern Illinois Edwardsville.

The Racers topped Eastern Kentucky 75-68 at home, but what really counted for Murray State was the win moved them to 4-6 in the OVC, and ahead of Eastern Kentucky, also 4-6, in a tiebreaker for the final tournament spot.

Tennessee State’s Tia Wooten strengthened her case for a potential conference player of the year award this weekend when she scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Tigers’ win over Eastern on Saturday and went off for 29 points and 11 rebounds against Edwardsville on Thursday.

Eastern freshmen Karle Pace struck Tennessee State with a career-high 31-point performance in the loss on Saturday.

Coming up this week in the OVC, the top four teams in the conference will face each other on Saturday when Belmont travels to Morehead State and Jacksonville State will head to Edwardsville, on a day that guarantees to have movement at the top of the standings.

Eastern continues play with games against Jacksonville State on Thursday and Tennessee Tech on Saturday, both game will be at Lantz Arena.

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