Eastern loses third game in a row

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Eastern loses third game in a row

Eastern guard Grace Lennox drives the basket in a 70-63 loss to Austin Peay on Jan. 19. Lennox and the Panthers lost to Southeast Missouri 72-57 on Saturday.

Eastern guard Grace Lennox drives the basket in a 70-63 loss to Austin Peay on Jan. 19. Lennox and the Panthers lost to Southeast Missouri 72-57 on Saturday.

Jordan Boyer

Eastern guard Grace Lennox drives the basket in a 70-63 loss to Austin Peay on Jan. 19. Lennox and the Panthers lost to Southeast Missouri 72-57 on Saturday.

Jordan Boyer

Jordan Boyer

Eastern guard Grace Lennox drives the basket in a 70-63 loss to Austin Peay on Jan. 19. Lennox and the Panthers lost to Southeast Missouri 72-57 on Saturday.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

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The Eastern women’s basketball team shot just 39 percent from the field in a 72-57 loss to Southeast Missouri where the team’s leading scorer Karle Pace just could not get baskets to fall.

In what was a battle between two of the better scoring sophomore guards in the Ohio Valley Conference in Pace and Southeast Missouri’s Tesia Thompson, it would be Thompson who would capture most of the attention, scoring 26 points, while Pace was just 3-of-14 from the field.

Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said the issue was not Pace’s shot selection, which was good for most of the game, but rather the ball’s inability to find the bottom of the net after leaving Pace’s hands.

“She started the game and her (Pace) first three takes were really good takes and four- to six-foot shots and shots that she normally makes,” Bollant said. “They just didn’t go in for her. She hit a three in the third quarter and I thought she might get going, but it was just one of those nights. Most of them were pretty good shots, they just didn’t fall.”

For Thompson on the flip side of the court, she was doing mostly what she wanted with the ball in her hands. She finished 9-of-15 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. She scored 10 of her 26 total points in the fourth quarter.

“She really took over,” Bollant said. “She had 10 points in the fourth quarter and she was just really physical and got to the rim and we tried to keep her in front but she just cut into us and kind of bodied us and created some space to get her shots off.”

Eastern went into the fourth quarter trailing by just four points, cue Thompson stepping in and 10 minutes later the Panthers were saddled with their sixth conference loss and third in a row.

“I thought we were fairly solid for three quarters,” Bollant said. “We struggled at the end of the first quarter, battled back in the second quarter, had an okay third quarter and I just feel like we didn’t have a great fourth quarter.”

Bollant credited Southeast Missouri stepping up on defense to the 10-point differential that separated the teams in the fourth quarter.

Eastern is now on the outside looking in for a conference tournament spot, as its 2-6 record is only good enough for 9th place in the standings.

Bollant said the team just needs to stay confident and find a way to get back on track, but appearing in the conference tournament is still the path Eastern wants to stay on.

To turn things around after three straight losses, Bollant said simply that the team just needs to start playing better. More consistency on offense and finishing games are things he hopes to see from his team in the coming week.

Senior forward Jalisha Smith continues to play well off the bench for Eastern. She had nine points and eight rebounds in 12 minutes on the court.

“I am hoping that she can continue to progress and give us great minutes down the stretch,” Bollant said.

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