Eastern wants to get back on track against Colonels


Jordan Boyer

Eastern freshman guard Kira Arthofer works on an Austin Peay defender in the Panthers’ 70-63 loss Jan. 19 in Lantz Arena.The Panthers have lost three games in a row and host Eastern Kentucky on Thursday.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

Eastern Kentucky is 0-8 in the Ohio Valley Conference this season and have won just two games all season long. The Colonels rank last in the conference is offense (54 ppg) and 9th in defense (69.9 ppg). Eastern, despite all of that, will not be underestimating the Colonels Thursday in Lantz Arena.

Eastern Kentucky still has pieces on the roster that should scare other teams according to Eastern head coach Matt Bollant.

“Their two guards, (Bria) Bass and (Shay) Solomon are both really talented and they can get to the rim and shoot the three and (Catie) Kaifes can really shoot the three and get in the post,” Bollant said. “They have a lot of good pieces, and they have certainly showed that they can be in games.”

Eastern Kentucky beat the Panthers in Lantz Arena last season and just last week the Colonels were leading the conference’s best team Tennessee Tech at halftime. Both of those things have given Bollant and his team enough reason to pause before underestimating this 0-8 team.

“They beat us last year and they return a bunch of those talented players,” Bollant said. “We just talked about how talented those individual players are, and in their last game they were ahead at halftime against Tennessee Tech, who is tied for first, so obviously they are very capable.”

Eastern is in the throes of a three-game losing streak right now and its now 2-6 conference record has them outside of the conference playoff picture. Wins are going to be at a premium the rest of the season, and Eastern fully plans on staying in the conference tournament conversation. So, despite the Panthers not underestimating Eastern Kentucky, playing an 0-8 team at home is a game the Panthers feel they have a good chance to win.

“If you look at their record you have to believe we have a good chance,” Bollant said. “But basketball is basketball, and you have got to play the game, and we have to play well to win. In our league there is enough parity that on any given night any team can win, any team can lose.”

Eastern will still be without starting forward Jennifer Nehls in the game, who is out with a broken foot. The Panthers’ other starting forward, Grace McRae, is returning from injury and remains a little bit beaten up still.

“We’re still hoping (McRae) can play more minutes than she did on Saturday,” Bollant said. “We need to talk to the trainer before tomorrow, but she has practiced and done more at practice than she has, so we’re hopeful that she can play more minutes and play well.”

Sophomore guard Karle Pace, the Panthers’ leading scorer, did not play well in Eastern’s loss to Southeast Missouri on Saturday; she was just 3-of-14 from the field. Eastern will need Pace to play well if the team is going to pull out of this losing streak, and so far in practice this week Bollant has seen things from Pace to indicate she is back on track.

“We spent some time with her on her shot on Monday and get it worked out and just try to get her mechanically doing some more things,” Bollant said. “Getting herself to slow down on threes a little bit and she has had a really good week offensively in practice. So, we’re expecting to see more of the Pace that we have seen in the other games.”

Eastern and Eastern Kentucky tip-off Thursday at 5:15 p.m. in Lantz Arena.

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