Tennessee Tech women’s basketball team tops Eastern 99-88


File Photo

Eastern senior Carmen Tellez prepares to shoot a three-pointer against Lincoln Christian on Nov. 12 in Lantz Arena.

When the Eastern women’s basketball team departed for a two-game road trip with games against Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech, it did so with a 1-1 conference record, the No. 2 ranked defense in the OVC and a chance to make waves early in the conference season. 

The Panthers did not return to Charleston with any of those figures intact.

Eastern lost both games of the road trip, first to Jacksonville State 78-49 on Thursday and then to Tennessee Tech in an 99-88 slugfest on Saturday.

The 177 points Eastern gave up over the weekend was the largest amount surrendered in back-to-back games since February of 2017, when in consecutive losses to Southeast Missouri and Tennessee-Martin it allowed 181 points. 

The inability to stop the Gamecocks and the Golden Eagles made it so the Panthers would have to watch their defense tumble from No. 2 in the conference to No. 5 in just a two-game stretch. 

Head coach Matt Bollant was not overly concerned with the drop in the level of defense, and while he was disappointed in Saturday’s performance, he fully expects the defense to return to from this week against Murray State and Austin Peay. 

“I think we’ll get back,” Bollant said. “Now Tennessee Tech is just playing at a whole other level offensively and we were really solid defensively against Jacksonville State in the first half and then they had a good crowd and they got going and made their first three three’s in the third quarter and we just didn’t respond after that. But I think Thursday you’ll see a different Eastern Illinois team on the defensive side and get back to playing with great energy and hopefully the results will show it.” 

Eastern had trouble stopping Tennessee Tech (12-3, 4-0 OVC) from doing anything on offense, as the Golden Eagles shot 65.52 percent from the field and 69.23 percent from three-point range. 

“We didn’t guard the dribble very well at all,” Bollant said. “Watching the film, we didn’t do a good job of being in a stance and staying in a stance and just keeping it in front. We let a great shooter get off to a great start, she scored ten points in the first couple of minutes and then she was really hard to guard from there.”

Guard Jordan Brock scored a game-high 33 points for Tennessee Tech on 10-of-17 shooting (8-of-15 from three-point range). Brock leads the conference with 50 made three-point shots. Bollant told Brock after the game that her game was one of the best shooting performances he has seen in the OVC. 

For all of Eastern’s defensive woes against the Golden Eagles, the offense played its best game of the season, scoring 88 points or more in a conference game for the first time since February of 2013.

Senior Carmen Tellez continued her rejuvenation during her senior season on Saturday. After struggling last season, shooting 32 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from three-point range, Tellez has bounced back this year in a big way and Saturday highlighted the change. 

Tellez scored 26 points, making seven three-pointers on 10 attempts. Her numbers this season are drastically better than they were a year ago at 50 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent from three-point range. Bollant credited the change to Tellez being a year older and more confident.

“Last year I was just never happy with her defense and I was constantly on her, challenging her and this year she is taking steps,” Bollant said. “We still need to grow more individually and as a team, but I think this year she is just a lot more comfortable. She is defending better and so she is just more confident and more comfortable.”

The Panthers dropped to 1-3 in the OVC and just outside of the conference tournament picture and remain 0-7 on the road after the Tennessee Tech loss. 

Bollant highlighted the importance of Eastern’s upcoming games and is urging people to fill the stands for Eastern’s two-game homestand. 

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