Column: Women’s basketball heads north to start road stint

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Column: Women’s basketball heads north to start road stint

Eastern guard Taylor Steele looks to pass against Loyola-Chicago Nov. 13 in Lantz Arena. Steele recorded seven points, two rebounds and two steals in the game, which the Panthers lost 67-51.

Eastern guard Taylor Steele looks to pass against Loyola-Chicago Nov. 13 in Lantz Arena. Steele recorded seven points, two rebounds and two steals in the game, which the Panthers lost 67-51.

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern guard Taylor Steele looks to pass against Loyola-Chicago Nov. 13 in Lantz Arena. Steele recorded seven points, two rebounds and two steals in the game, which the Panthers lost 67-51.

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern guard Taylor Steele looks to pass against Loyola-Chicago Nov. 13 in Lantz Arena. Steele recorded seven points, two rebounds and two steals in the game, which the Panthers lost 67-51.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

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Coming off two home losses, the Eastern women’s basketball team (1-2) begins a four-game road stretch, starting with Illinois-Chicago (0-3) on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Panthers opened the year with a strong 22-point win over Lindenwood, but their last two matchups have not been as favorable, falling to Indiana State 59-57 with a comeback attempt that fell short, and then shrinking offensively to Loyola-Chicago after the first quarter that led to a 67-51 defeat.

The most consistent piece for Eastern’s squad has been junior Karle Pace who has already posted 56 points in the three affairs this season, and it’s not much of a surprise after she led the Panthers in the 2018-19 campaign with an average of 13.8 points per game.

Eastern could use some help from sophomore Abby Wahl as well, as she provided 33 points of offense to go along with 11 rebounds through the first two games of the season before posting just 4 points on 2-for-7 shooting and no boards against the Ramblers on Wednesday.

Ball distribution will be key to help all Eastern scorers, considering the Panthers went the final 30 minutes of game time against Loyola-Chicago compiling just two assists after posting three in the first quarter alone.

The Panthers averaged 13.8 assists as a team last season compared to 12.3 this season.

The good news for the Eastern offense is that Illinois-Chicago has allowed 78.7 points per game, good for a point differential average of -32 per game.

However, two of those losses came to the Power 5 schools of Kansas and Kansas State—though, it’s worth noting Kansas finished last in the Big 12 at 13-18 overall last year—and Flames junior Jada Nneji is still leading the team with 11.0 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting.

That being said, Nneji is the only Illinois-Chicago player shooting over 40 percent from the floor with the closest average being junior Kiarra Thompson at 37.5 percent.

In fact, four of the eight Flames players with at least 15 shot attempts this season have hit at a clip at or below 25 percent.

The closest reference for Eastern may be Illinois-Chicago’s season opener against Purdue-Fort Wayne, in which the Flames fell by a 61-50 margin compared to the Panthers 72-63 win over the Mastodons last year.

The three-ball could be a key differentiator for Eastern, considering the Flames have made just 12 triples in 50 attempts this year, while the Panthers are firing at a 37.7 percent rate, but Eastern is also coming off a 4-for-19 performance from deep last game.

Sophomore Jordyn Hughes and junior Taylor Steele could provide that spark from three-point range, as they both remain a combined 7-for-19 shooting from outside despite just a 1-for-5 combined clip last game.

Freshman Lariah Washington, who struggled in the Panthers’ first two games after a strong outing in an exhibition, tallied 14 points against Loyola-Chicago. She shot 1-4 from three-point range and 4-10 overall from the field.

After the matchup, Eastern plays game two of the road stint against Evansville on Nov. 19 at 6 p.m.

 

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