Women’s basketball team ready for Skyhawks round 2

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Women’s basketball team ready for Skyhawks round 2

Eastern guard Karle Pace works around an Austin Peay defender in the Panthers’ 73-60 loss to the Governors Saturday in Lantz Arena. Eastern plays Tennessee-Martin on the road Thursday.

Eastern guard Karle Pace works around an Austin Peay defender in the Panthers’ 73-60 loss to the Governors Saturday in Lantz Arena. Eastern plays Tennessee-Martin on the road Thursday.

Jordan Boyer

Eastern guard Karle Pace works around an Austin Peay defender in the Panthers’ 73-60 loss to the Governors Saturday in Lantz Arena. Eastern plays Tennessee-Martin on the road Thursday.

Jordan Boyer

Jordan Boyer

Eastern guard Karle Pace works around an Austin Peay defender in the Panthers’ 73-60 loss to the Governors Saturday in Lantz Arena. Eastern plays Tennessee-Martin on the road Thursday.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

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If there is ever going to be a time when the Eastern women’s basketball team breaks it conference road losing streak that dates back to February of 2017, the team would certainly prefer it come this week against Tennessee-Martin and/or Southeast Missouri. 

Wins are at a premium right now in the Ohio Valley Conference thanks to a jam-packed conference standing, and with Eastern currently holding the final conference tournament spot thanks to a tie-breaker over Murray State, the urgency for the team to finally get a road conference win is at its height. 

“We have to start with one (win),” Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said. “We haven’t won a conference road game since we have been here. So we’re focused on getting one Thursday and if we can find a way to do that then we’ll worry about Saturday. But just finding a way to play well on the road and getting a win.”

Breaking a streak that has ran for so long will not be easy, especially against Tennessee-Martin. But Eastern knows at some point it has to be done, and this week would be a perfect place to start. Exactly what it’s going to take to do that, Bollant put simply.

“(Its going to take) our very best,” Bollant said. “We’re going to need to play four quarters and we have had road games where we’ve played two or three quarters well, but tomorrow it’s going to take four and it’s just going to take our very best game.”

The Panthers beat Tennessee-Martin in Lantz Arena to open conference play which will help Eastern’s confidence going onto Tennessee-Martin’s court this time around.

Picking up two wins against a Tennessee-Martin team that expects to finish in the top half of the conference would be big for Eastern and it knows it. 

“Beating them twice would be huge and maybe would be a shot in the arm,” Bollant said. “And again, I think (Tennessee)-Martin is going to finish in the top part so that would help us in the tiebreaker system probably as well.”

But, Eastern is, rightfully so, not going to be taking the Skyhawks lightly just because they have a win over them. Bollant considers Tennessee-Martin to be one of the best teams in the conference, and the Skyhawks have the resume to back it up. 

Tennessee-Martin has the highest scoring offense in the conference (82.5 points per game) and have seven players that average over seven points per game. 

Tennessee-Martin’s leading scorer, Chelsey Perry, averages only 10.2 points per game, but what makes them so dangerous is that they can attack you with a lot of different players. 

“I think (Emayne) Robertson, being a senior, is really stepping it up in conference play and shooting the ball more and making more plays, which she did kind of late in the game against us and then Perry is really good,” Bollant said. “But they have tremendous depth, they have got eight, nine different kids that can hurt you for sure and kids that play with a lot of confidence.”

Eastern will be without starting forward Jennifer Nehls again who was just diagnosed with a broken foot and will be out at least four weeks. Fellow starting forward Grace McRae is still day-to-day, Bollant said there is a chance she can play on Thursday. 

Freshman Abby Wahl will continue to start in their absences; to this point she has played well in the starting role. In Eastern’s loss to Austin Peay on Saturday she had 11 points and eight rebounds, instilling confidence into Bollant regarding his freshman forward. 

“She just keeps growing,” Bollant said. “I told our players she is our most improved player from when she got here last summer, and a big reason for that is just her effort and how hard she goes and how coachable she is. She continues to grow and do things that make us better.”

Eastern and Tennessee-Martin tip-off at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

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