Disappointing loss all too familiar for Eastern


Jordan Boyer

Eastern forward Jalisha Smith holds her face after taking a hit in the Panthers 70-63 loss to Austin Peay Jan. 19 in Lantz Arena. Smith had eight points in Eastern’s 90-66 loss to Tennessee-Martin Thursday on the road. Eastern is now 2-5 in conference play.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

Another early lead for the Eastern women’s basketball team quickly turned into another insurmountable deficit as once again an issue that has plagued Eastern all season seeped into yet another promising game for the Panthers and delivered them another loss, this time in a 90-66 road effort against Tennessee-Martin. 

Time and time again Eastern has allowed one bad quarter to spoil a game. Thursday it was the second quarter in which Eastern was outscored 30-10, Jan. 19 it was the fourth quarter against Austin Peay (24-11) and Jan. 10 it was the third quarter against Jacksonville State (31-4) that sank Eastern.

The trend is beginning to frustrate Eastern

“It is (getting frustrating), definitely,” Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said. “We’re just not consistent enough to play four great quarters and its really hurting us. Keeping us from having a chance to win a game.”

The second quarter collapse, one that was all too familiar looking to Eastern, was simply too much for the Panthers to overcome. Eastern bounced back in the third quarter, outscoring Tennessee-Martin 24-22 in the quarter, at one point cutting the Skyhawks lead down to five, but the trench the second quarter created for Eastern to climb out of was too deep. 

Tennessee-Martin picked up its full-court pressure in the quarter and scrambled the organization of the Eastern offense. Defensively, Bollant said his team struggles to get stops and keep Tennessee-Martin ball handlers in front of them. 

Forwards Abby Wahl and Jalisha Smith got into foul trouble in the second quarter and an Eastern team already shorthanded at that position thanks to the injuries to both Jennifer Nehls and Grace McRae was now in a pinch. 

The Skyhawks kept moving the ball and scored at a pace just fast enough to keep the game out of reach for Eastern, before slamming the door shut on Eastern reserves in the fourth quarter. 

Brittni Moore had a game-high 22-points, Emayne Robertson had 17 and Chelsey Perry added 15 more for the Skyhawks. Eastern knew it had to watch out for Robertson and Perry, but Moore in her first start contributed plenty of damage as well. 

“(Moore) shot it really well and with a lot of confidence,” Bollant said. “(Perry and Robertson) are just really good basketball players and made a lot of good plays.”

Eastern got a team-high 14 points from senior Carmen Tellez who continues to play well and Wahl added 11 on 4-of-5 shooting. 

“Carmen really kind of sparked us in that second half and Abby (Wahl) is just growing, growing and growing as a player. 11 points and six rebounds,” Bollant said. “For our top six players her plus/minus when she was on the floor was by far the best of any of our top six.”

The Panthers held a lead at the end of the first quarter against the Skyhawks, which has not meant much for Eastern as of late, the Panthers have held a lead after the first quarter in each of its last three games. The Panthers are just 1-2 in those games. 

But, the second quarter came and with it Eastern’s lead fled the stadium. 

The Panthers lost their 25-20 first quarter lead quickly in the quarter, a couple of messy Eastern possessions coupled with a Tennessee-Martin scoring binge had Eastern down 33-29 with six minutes to play in the half. At this point Bollant was clapping his hands in frustration at his team that could not break Tennessee-Martin’s full-court press and could not stop the Skyhawks on defense. 

Things only got worse for Eastern in the quarter, Eastern fell down by double-digits after Tennessee-Martin made seven free throws highlighted by two coming from a technical foul on Eastern forward Damonique Miller after she tried to enter the game without first checking in with the scorekeeper. Eastern then found itself 46-35 and by the end of the half the score was 50-35.

Eastern is now 2-5 in conference play and travels to face Southeast Missouri on Saturday. 

Bollant does not view the game as a must win after Thursday’s loss, but would like to see the team begin to play well over its next stretch of games. 

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