Women’s basketball trounces Illinois-Chicago on the road Saturday


The Daily Eastern News

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News Taylor Steele tries to drive inside against a defender. Eastern lost 67-51 against Loyola-Chicago Nov. 13 in Lantz Arena.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

A 31-7 first-quarter lead over Illinois-Chicago (0-4) propelled Eastern women’s basketball (2-2) to an 80-45 victory Nov. 16.

The hefty first quarter performance from the Panthers began with a 14-0 run, thanks in large part to sophomore Abby Wahl who provided 12 of those early points, including the team’s first nine.

Wahl posted a season-low 4 points and zero rebounds in the team’s 67-51 loss to Loyola-Chicago last week, and Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said Wahl worked hard to return to form.

“She definitely looked back to herself,” Bollant said. “One thing I love about her is that night after she didn’t play well the other night, she was in the gym doing extra and working at her game, so I love that about her that she wanted to do that.”

Wahl finished the game with 17 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes of work.

The Flames responded by holding Eastern to nine points in the second quarter, but 10 second-half points from freshman Lariah Washington helped fend off any comeback hopes for Illinois-Chicago.

Washington finished the matchup with 17 points of her own to go along with 12 boards, marking her first double-double of the year.

After combining for one point through Eastern’s first two games of the year, Washington has posted 31 points on 22 shots in the past two affairs, and Bollant said he knew she was capable of producing at this level.

“She played like [she did against Illinois-Chicago] in our scrimmage and exhibition game,” Bollant said, “so we were just hoping to get her comfortable, and certainly she looked like she was more comfortable.”

Bollant said Washington has been nominated for OVC Player of the Week and OVC Freshman of the Week honors.

The second half was much of the same, as Eastern outpaced the Flames 40-23 over the final 20 minutes of the contest.

Junior Taylor Steele bounced back from a tame performance as well, tying her season-high point total with 15 against the Flames after managing 7 points on 7 shots against the Ramblers last week.

Steele averaged 11.0 points per game last season as the second-leading scorer behind junior Karle Pace, who finished the day against Illinois-Chicago with 6 assists and 7 points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Pace scored 17 or more points in each of the first three games for the Panthers.

Pace, Wahl and Steele are the leading scorers for the Panthers so far this season, as all three are averaging over double figures in the first four games.

With the offensive output the Panthers have produced in their first four games, they are outscoring their opponents so far.

Eastern is also getting things done on the defensive side, boasting an advantage over opponents with more steals on the young season.

Eastern gets a quick turnaround with a road matchup against Evansville Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Evansville is 1-2 this season, with both losses coming against some of Eastern’s OVC rivals (Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois Edwardsville).

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