Women’s basketball wins season opener 88-66

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Women’s basketball wins season opener 88-66

Eastern forward Abby Wahl fights through contact under the basket against Lindenwood on Nov. 5 in Lantz Arena. Wahl had 17 points in a 88-66 win for the Panthers.

Eastern forward Abby Wahl fights through contact under the basket against Lindenwood on Nov. 5 in Lantz Arena. Wahl had 17 points in a 88-66 win for the Panthers.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern forward Abby Wahl fights through contact under the basket against Lindenwood on Nov. 5 in Lantz Arena. Wahl had 17 points in a 88-66 win for the Panthers.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern forward Abby Wahl fights through contact under the basket against Lindenwood on Nov. 5 in Lantz Arena. Wahl had 17 points in a 88-66 win for the Panthers.

JJ Bullock, Editor-In-Chief

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The Eastern women’s basketball team scheduled Lindenwood, a Division II team, with the idea in mind that the Lions would give the Panthers a tougher early season test than Eastern’s non-conference opponents did last season.

For at least the early part of the first quarter, Lindenwood appeared to be up to the task of giving Eastern the tougher non-conference opponent it was seeking, jumping out to an early lead on the Panthers home court. But by the time the game was over the Panthers, led by sophomore Jordyn Hughes’ career-high 24-point performance, beat Lindenwood in decisive fashion 88-66 in Lantz Arena.

Lindenwood shot 69.2 percent in the first quarter and trailed Eastern just 25-23 at the end of the quarter. But the Panthers buckled down on defense in the second quarter and took a 47-37 lead into halftime, and then really dispatched Lindenwood in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lions 20-10 in the final period.

Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said the Panthers were just more “dug-in” on defense after the first quarter.

“The first quarter we were more, I don’t know if we were a little tight or we just didn’t move very well and we were kind of a step behind,” Bollant said. “And then they started making shots and got their confidence, they hit their first four threes and got their confidence going and I felt like we were a little more proactive and then maybe in the second half and fourth quarter we warmed down a little bit and some of those shots they made in the first quarter didn’t fall.”

Hughes helped lead the Panthers second half surge, scoring 14 of her 24 points in the second half. Hughes averaged just 2.3 points per game last season and just 7.8 minutes. Tuesday night she played 27 minutes.

“I just built my confidence up, I was a little low last year, but now I got my shot right, fixed my footwork,” Hughes said. “Once I start hitting them then you just can’t really stop it from there. It’s real easy once I get in a flow. All the offseason work has really helped.”

Hughes was far from alone in scoring for the Panthers who had four players finish in double-digit scoring. Sophomore Abby Wahl had 17 points, junior Karle Pace had 19 and junior Taylor Steele finished with 13.

Pace and Steele were the Panthers leading scorers last season, so seeing them in double-digits comes as no surprise. Wahl however averaged just 6.7 points per game last season, but Bollant expects her to be one of the top forwards in the OVC this season and at least through one game, she is showing that could be a reality.

“The team has been doing a great job of seeing me inside,” Wahl said. “I just have to keep working offensively to work my defenders up and get open, but I still have a lot of improvement defensively and that’s something I want to focus on now.”

Wahl was 3-for-3 in three-point shooting in Tuesday’s win, she made just five three-pointers all of last season.

Although the Panthers beat Lindenwood by 22 points, Eastern still felt the Lions provided the non-Division I challenge they were hoping to see early this season.

“Last year our three non-Division I (opponents) they just weren’t that good and we knew going in, so we wanted to play a tougher team, we got Indiana State and Loyola (Chicago) coming in who are both really good,” Bollant said. “So, we thought we were going to be better, you know I was a little stressed going into the game because I knew (Lindenwood) could play and they could score. Then the first quarter when they were making all of those shots part of me was thinking ‘what was I thinking?’ But thankfully it worked out.”

Hughes added:

“Definitely (Lindenwood was tougher than the non-Division I teams last season),” Hughes said. “The other teams didn’t challenge us enough defensively and I thought today that Lindenwood was a really great team, they moved the ball, they had great sets that we have been practicing, so it was really good for us first game.”

Eastern’s next game is Sunday at 2 p.m against Indiana State in Lantz Arena.

 

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