Panthers off to hot start in OVC play

Adam Tumino, Women's Basketball Reporter

The Daily Eastern News
Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News
Guard Taylor Steele fights for a loose ball in Eastern’s 65-52 win against Omaha Dec. 7th at Lantz Arena.

The Eastern women’s basketball team won its third conference game of the season Jan. 11 against Morehead State 57-51, in what was the Panthers’ fourth game against an OVC opponent.

The 3-1 start to the conference season is the best the Panthers have had since the 2014-15 season.

Eastern did not win its third conference game last season until its ninth OVC game and won only two conference games total the season before. In the previous four seasons, the Panthers averaged just 3.5 conference wins a season. They are now on pace to quadruple that number.

Speaking of pace, the Panthers are being led so far this season by junior guard Karle Pace. She is seventh in the OVC in scoring, averaging 15.1 points per game. But in four conference games, Pace has scored 24, 17, 25 and 25 points for an average of 22.8 points per game.

Pace is leading the OVC in steals per game (2.3), ranks ninth in three-point percentage (.377) and 10th in assists per game (2.7).

Sophomore forward Abby Wahl is the Panthers’ second-leading scorer averaging 12.1 points per game, which ranks 11th in the conference. Wahl is shooting .459 from the field, which leads the team and ranks eighth in the OVC.

Kira Arthofer leads the team in assists per game (2.9) and is second in steals per game (1.9), which rank seventh and sixth in the conference respectively.

The Panthers’ leading freshman is Lariah Washington, who is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 8.9 points per game. Her 5.1 rebounds per game rank second on the team, trailing only Wahl’s average of 5.7 rebounds per game. 

Along with the successes of individual players, the Panthers are also performing statistically well as a team.

They are averaging 65.6 points per game, which is tied for fifth in the conference. The Panthers lead the conference in defense, allowing only 58.5 points per game. Their +7.1 scoring margin ranks third in the OVC.

Eastern also has the fourth-best field goal percentage in the conference (.394) and third-best three-point percentage (.311) in the conference.

Defensively, the Panthers lead the conference with 11.3 steals per game and a +4.73 turnover margin.

These numbers belong to a Panther team that was picked to finish 10th in the OVC in a preseason poll. They currently are tied for third in the standings. Their offensive statistics are comparable to last season, but defense is where the Panthers’ numbers have improved the most this season.

They are allowing 8.5 fewer points per game than a season ago and recording 1.5 more steals per game. Eastern is holding opponents to a .367 shooting percentage from the field this season compared to .424 last season.

The Panthers’ next game will be Thursday against Jacksonville State in Lantz Arena at 5:15 p.m. It will be Eastern’s first home conference game of the season.

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]