The Eastern’s women’s basketball team opens its regular season Tuesday in Lantz Arena against Lindenwood.
Eastern is coming off of an 83-50 exhibition win over Illinois-Wesleyan and will try and carry momentum from that into what should be a win for the Panthers over a Division II team Tuesday.
The Panthers got contribution from where they hoped in their exhibition win: Sophomore forward Abby Wahl, who head coach Matt Bollant said will be one of the top forwards in the OVC, scored 15 points and added seven rebounds and freshman Lariah Washington, who Bollant said is the team’s best open-court player, had 15 points and six rebounds.
The Panthers are expecting both Wahl and Washington to be big players for them this season, so their performances in the exhibition gave the Panthers room for optimism moving forward.
“I thought both of them were great,” Bollant said. “They shot a great percentage, they got layups, they defended, they rebounded and they did the things that we want them to do to help us win. They were really good.”
Wahl however will be facing steeper competition against Lindenwood than she saw against Illinois-Wesleyan as Lindenwood has a very good frontcourt led by senior Kallie Bildner who led Lindenwood in scoring last season.
Bollant said that Bildner is as good as any post player Wahl will see in OVC play.
“It came fairly easy for (Wahl) against (Illinois-Wesleyan), they had one really good post player but certainly we are going to see a lot more size, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-2 inside, and so can you score against that size and can you defend and rebound,” Bollant said. “We did a good job in those areas against (Illinois-Wesleyan) and now certainly it is going to be more of a challenge with (Lindenwood’s) size and their experience in the post.”
Eastern’s non-conference home schedule last season included games against weaker opponents like Oakland City and Lincoln Christian, which gave Eastern little resistance in either game. Eastern feels it is better this season however, and for that reason scheduled what they feel should be a tougher opponent in Lindenwood.
“This year we feel like we are going to be better and we intentionally scheduled a tough Division II team knowing that we will have to play well to win, because we have got Indiana State coming, we’ve got Loyola coming,” Bollant said. “We have got some tougher games ahead and we feel like we’re farther ahead with our player development and our players as well.”
The starters for Eastern on Tuesday will be Kira Arthofer, Karle Pace, Washington, Taylor Steele and Wahl. Forward Grace McRae remains out of the starting lineup with a back injury and Bollant said that Washington certainly earned herself a starting spot moving forward.
Eastern and Lindenwood tip off at 6 p.m. in Lantz Arena.
JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]