Women’s basketball team to host Ramblers Wednesday


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern freshman Lariah Washington pulls up for a jump shot against Indiana State on Nov. 10 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers lost to the Sycamores 59-57.

JJ Bullock, Editor-In-Chief

The Eastern women’s basketball team will be focused on putting together a more complete offensive performance Wednesday at Lantz Arena against Loyola-Chicago.

Following their 59-57 loss to Indiana State on Sunday, the Panthers’ goal in Wednesday’s game against the Ramblers is to see improvement on offense.

“I just didn’t think we played as well as we can offensively,” Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said. “Part of it was Indiana State being good defensively and some of it was we were rushed and just didn’t get possessions where we made, three, four, five passes. We took a lot of shots off no passes or one pass, just trying to be more disciplined offensively.”

The Panthers are expecting to have another solid non-conference opponent in Loyola-Chicago, as they did in Indiana State, but recognize that the style each team plays with is different.

“(Loyola-Chicago) is 2-0, they have a lot returning from last year, they’re a very confident team,” Bollant said. “They’re just poised and a smart team as well.”

Loyola-Chicago has two weapons on offense that the Panthers will be paying special attention to on Wednesday: Forwards Abby O’Connor and sophomore Janae Gonzales.

O’Connor leads the team in scoring, averaging 17 points per game, and Gonzales, a keen three-point shooter, sits behind her averaging 15.5.

“I think it starts with (O’Connor) with them. She’s just a really good player, she is smart, she can pass and just trying to limit her as best we can,” Bollant said. “And then Gonzales can really shoot it and she made nine threes in their first game and they won their second so obviously how you guard her is pretty important as well.”

Bollant said that guard Taylor Steele will start on O’Connor defensively and said Gonzales will likely be guarded by either junior Karle Pace or freshman Lariah Washington.

Bollant said that freshman forward Morgan Litwiller will play more on Wednesday as she continues to get healthier, as will forward Claudia Stan as she recovers from an ankle injury. Junior forward Grace McRae will not play on Wednesday (back).

“I expect (Litwiller) to play a lot and (Stan) some too,” Bollant said.

Washington’s stellar play in the offseason and in the Panther’s one exhibition game helped earn her way into the starting lineup for the Panthers early this season, but thus far Washington has struggled on the court, going 0-of-6 from the field in the Panthers loss to Indiana State.

Bollant is still confident in Washington, a player he said was the Panthers’ best open-court player, and is encouraging her to keep her head up and play basketball.

“I said (to Washington), ‘you know you have got to be confident,’” Bollant said. “I said, ‘I feel like you are waiting to make a shot before you start playing with confidence and you have to go out there right away, whether you make a shot or not, play with confidence and believe,’ and I think it was good for her. She just needed to be reassured and believe. I told her ‘there isn’t any freshman who comes in and plays great in every game. Every freshman goes through some ups and downs and some bad games and you have earned this spot and go play well and go be confident.’”

“Right now I feel like Karle (Pace), Abby (Wahl), Kira (Arthofer) and Taylor (Steele) have been solid, those four and we’re just trying to see if we can get a few more to be consistent,” Bollant said. “Jordyn (Hughes) played great in game one and just trying to get her and hopefully (Litwiller) now that she’s healthy, just getting more consistent play out of five through nine.”

Wednesday will be kids’ day at Lantz Arena, which means the stands will be filled with local middle school and elementary school students who come annually to watch the Panthers play.

Bollant said the Panthers are looking forward to playing in that atmosphere.

Eastern and Loyola-Chicago tip-off at noon on Wednesday.


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