Eastern to face struggling Redhawks team


Karina Delgado

Sophomore guard Danielle Berry surveys the court over an Austin Peay defender in the Panthers 75-66 loss to the Governors on Feb. 10 at Lantz Arena. Berry scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in the loss.

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

With a conference record of 1-14, the Eastern women’s basketball team’s season is all but lost with just four games left to play this season.

But, the opportunity for the Panthers to play spoiler for opponents trying to make the OVC tournament has presented itself, and is more prevalent in the Panthers’ next game than ever before.

Eastern plays Southeast Missouri on the road Wednesday, where they will meet a Redhawks team that has lost their last three games and is currently battling through the densest part of the conference standings for a playoff spot.

Southeast Missouri’s three-game slide has dropped the team to 6-8 in the conference and in possession of the seventh seed in the OVC tournament.

However, Murray State and Eastern Kentucky, both with 5-9 conference records, are waiting in the wings for Southeast Missouri to stumble once again, and Eastern is ready to deliver that blow to the Redhawks.

Panthers’ head coach Matt Bollant is trying to keep his team focused on themselves this week, however, and he is not trying to get wrapped up in Southeast Missouri’s playoff race.

“We’re trying to get better and win a basketball game,” Bollant said. “But we know we have got a lot of improvement to do, so that’s what the focus is right now.”

The last time Eastern and the Redhawks met on Jan. 20, Southeast Missouri’s third-ranked defense beat down the Panthers in the first and fourth quarters, holding Eastern to just a 28.6 shooting percentage in its eventual 77-54 win over the Panthers.

Although they failed last time in stopping the Redhawks’ leading scorer Tesia Thompson, who dropped a game-high 18 points in the Jan. 20 win, the Panthers will make another effort to stop the guard from doing damage.

“She is a really good penetrator and we have got to do a good job of keeping her in front,” Bollant said of Thompson. “We didn’t do a great job at our place and we’re going to have to work harder at that and make sure we find her in transition. She is a really good athlete, she can rebound, she is really good off the dribble.”

Bollant will have a mixture of players covering Thompson throughout the game, but freshman guard Taylor Steele will start the game on Thompson, he said. The Redhawks almost entirely controlled the boards in the last game as well, they outrebounded the Panthers 52-28.

“For us, (rebounding) comes down to we have to leave the zone and block out,” Bollant said. “We work on rebounding every day, we just really have to pursue the ball as well because we’re not very long, we’re not very athletic, so we have to really have great heart when we pursue the ball.”

As the season winds down for the Panthers, Bollant said he will continue to look for individual and team improvement as the team “builds for the future.”

Eastern and Southeast Missouri will play at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-281 or [email protected]