Big week of games looms for Eastern


Dillan Schorfheide

Eastern guard Grace Lennox drives up the court in the Panthers’ 67-57 loss to Morehead State on Feb. 2. Eastern is 4-8 in the OVC, one game out of a conference tournament spot.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

The opportunity is in front of the Eastern women’s basketball team to move back into the conference tournament this week, but to seize the opportunity the Panthers’ must beat two teams that they have lost to already this season.

Eastern is 4-8 in conference play and one game out of the OVC tournament picture, Thursday the Panthers travel to face Southern Illinois Edwardsville (5-7) and Saturday return to Lantz Arena to play Southeast Missouri (6-6), in two matchups where the Panthers will take a swing at two teams they are chasing for tournament spots.

“(The opportunity) is huge, I think if you’re going to be in the top eight, the teams that are in front of you, you have got to find a way to knock them off,” Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said.

The Cougars, losers of five of their last six games, are not exactly sprinting full strength into Thursday’s game, but on Jan. 5 they beat the Panthers 65-56, a game that is serving as a stark reminder to Eastern not to take this team lightly.

The one thing Eastern really remembers from that first loss to the Cougars and hopes to change on Thursday is the way Southern Illinois Edwardsville bullied them in rebounding. The Cougars grabbed 54 rebounds to just 26 by the Panthers.

“Edwardsville we just have to do a better job on the glass,” Bollant said. “We really, really struggled against them on the boards. And then we took some poor shots down the stretch, so just being disciplined offensively and then really competing on the glass.”

Eastern is very similar to both of these teams on both sides of the ball; in fact, everything except these team’s record seem to mirror each other in every way.

Eastern has the 7th ranked offense in the OVC, Southeast Missouri has the 8th and Southern Illinois Edwardsville has the 9th.

Southern Illinois Edwardsville has the conference’s 4th ranked defense, Southeast Missouri has the 5th and Eastern has the 6th.

Where there are similarities, Eastern believes there is also parity, and both of Thursday and Saturday’s games should be ones in which Eastern is highly competitive, especially coming off a win over Austin Peay (6-6) on Saturday.

Southeast Missouri beat Eastern 72-57 on Jan. 26, and the two teams played fairly evenly matched basketball throughout the game. The one big difference, however, was Southeast Missouri’s Tesia Thompson, who scored a game-high 26 points in the win.

“Just being tougher guarding Thompson,” Bollant said would be key against the Redhawks. “I feel like Thompson had her way in the fourth quarter and she was physical and aggressive, and we didn’t match that play.”

Last Friday, Eastern’s freshman guard Kira Arthofer sprained her ankle and missed Saturday’s win against Austin Peay. Bollant said she is likely to miss Thursday’s game against the Cougars and will probably be out Saturday as well, but there is a chance she could play.

Arthofer joins forward Jennifer Nehls as the Panthers’ injured players. Nehls broke her foot earlier this season, and Eastern now fears she may miss the rest of the season.

Eastern and Southern Illinois Edwardsville tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

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