Loyola-Chicago shuts down Panther offense in 67-51 victory over Eastern

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Eastern women’s basketball team (1-2) got out to a hot start against Loyola-Chicago (3-0), but a 19-5 run by the Ramblers to open the second quarter left the Panthers trailing for the rest of the matchup, finally falling 67-51.

Loyola-Chicago sophomore Janae Gonzales and junior Abby O’Connor combined for 11 of the Ramblers’ points in the second-quarter surge, and Gonzales went on to lead all scorers with 24 points and seven made three-pointers on just 12 attempts throughout the contest.

Meanwhile, the Panthers converted just three of 12 total shot attempts in the second quarter, and head coach Matt Bollant said the team missed some opportunities.

“I thought we were good offensively in the first quarter,” Bollant said. “And then we started missing shots. You know, I do think we had some good shots that would go in and out, and then that affected everything else as well.”

Eastern opened the contest leading 19-11 after the first 10 minutes of play, shooting 61.5 percent in the first quarter yet finishing the game shooting just 34 percent overall.

One key piece was absent for a majority of the second quarter run, was sophomore Abby Wahl, who posted 33 points over the Panthers’ first two games this season. Wahl picked up her second foul on an over the back call and played just one minute in the second period.

Bollant said that made it tough for Wahl to get back into a groove.

“I think that took her out of the flow a little bit,” Bollant said. “And Abby did not play a good game. You know, she’s only a sophomore, so maybe she’s going to be a little up and down, but she’s one of our best post players and a kid that we need to count on.”

Wahl finished the game with four points and zero rebounds on seven shots, but junior Karle Pace picked up the slack early, starting 6-of-6 from the floor nearly halfway into the third quarter before finishing with a team-high 17 points, along with two assists and three rebounds.

Pace did seem to slow in the second half, though, converting just one of seven shots in the latter 20 minutes, and she said the Ramblers’ adjustments played into that change.

“They played a really packed line defense where the drives just weren’t as open,” Pace said, “and then I just had a couple shots go in and out like layups around the rim.”

Freshman Lariah Washington posted nine of her 14 points in the second half to pair with her team-high six rebounds.

Eastern falls to 1-2 on the season and gears up for a four-game road stint, starting with Illinois-Chicago on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]