Changes ahead for women’s basketball

Tom O'Connor, Women's Basketball Reporter

On Jan. 13, Eastern’s women’s basketball team lost to Belmont 58-86 in a 28-point rout at Lantz Arena.

Following three quarters in which the Panthers allowed Belmont to shoot 47.37 percent from the field, the Bruins opened up the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run, a portentous omen for what would become an eleven game Panthers losing streak.

Apart from the team’s anemic efforts on defense, Eastern came up short in just about every measure, allowing the Bruins to accrue extra possessions, evident considering the fact that the Bruins rank first in defensive rebounds this season.

These disparities, whether offensive or defensive in nature, have appeared quite frequently this year.

With 27 games in the rearview mirror and two games left to close out the season, the Panthers will look to fine tune any mechanical breakdowns during this final stretch.

These adjustments serve little use this season, but might very well fast track Eastern’s rebuilding process ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, when the Panthers take on a highly anticipated freshmen class.

For a team to solidify a spot in the OVC tournament, which will be played at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. this year, it must assemble a vehicle with all of the appropriate parts.

Intent on making deep playoff runs, the Panthers’ last two opponents, Murray State and Southern Illinois Edwradsville, have consistently made the playoffs over the past 15 years.

After joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 2011, the Cougars, the third best team in the league at the moment, have clinched a tournament spot each of the last six seasons.

As Eastern updates its model for next season, there will be several areas worth addressing in the offseason.

One, Eastern must engineer an ability to beat the full court press, a strategy opponents have utilized against the Panthers to great success.

The Panthers’ narrow loss to Tennessee Tech, who beat the Panthers by a score of 60-57, came down to an inability to withstand pressure and create scoring opportunities when the Eagles used this defensive scheme.

Before Eastern shifted into cruise control, the Panthers had a clear edge over the Eagles, who lacked any cohesiveness on offense whatsoever.

Until the Panthers gain continuity on the offensive side of the ball, few leads will be safe from an unanticipated comeback.

Perhaps the Panthers could look to implement a dribble drive offense on a more consistent basis which has, for the most part, opened up additional scoring chances this year.

This innovative play takes place when four players spread out in the half court, with one player down by the block, which allows the ball handler to either attack the basket or kick the ball out through any one of the unobstructed passing lanes. Eventually, this leads to an open shot.

On a separate, but no less significant note, the Panthers have struggled to endure their road trips, losing all 14 games this season, nine of which were played against conference opponents.

In order for Eastern to manufacture a trip to the Ford Center in the next few years, the team will need to restructure its metaphorical engine part by part.

Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]