Panthers showcase scoring depth against Skyhawks

Adam Tumino, Women's Basketball Reporter

When the Eastern women’s basketball team tipped off against Tennessee-Martin Thursday evening, it began its second-straight game against an OVC leader with an unbeaten conference record.

After falling short against Tennessee Tech Jan. 18, losing 75-62, the Panthers bounced back five days later to beat Tennessee-Martin 74-70.

The difference between the two games? Eastern’s depth.

Against Tennessee Tech, three Eastern players scored in double figures, but the team’s fourth-leading scorer tallied just four points.

Against Tennessee-Martin, five Eastern players scored in double figures. It was only the second time this season that five Panthers scored in double figures, the first instance coming Nov. 19, 2019, in Eastern’s 90-44 dismantling of Evansville.

In that game, Karle Pace (17), Lariah Washington (14), Taylor Steele (12), Claudia Stan (12) and Jordyn Hughes (10) reached or eclipsed the 10-point mark.

Thursday against the Skyhawks, it was Washington (16), Abby Wahl (13), Pace (12), Morgan Litwiller (12), and Hughes (10).

“We all stepped up and played,” Wahl said. “We knew (Tennessee-Martin) was going to play hard against Karle, but we just have players that can step up and play their role, and that’s really good for our team.”

Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said after the Tennessee Tech game that several players need to perform well to beat tough teams. He said he, and the players, were more pleased with their performances against Tennessee-Martin.

“To beat a good team, several people have got to do it, and today we had a lot of players play well,” he said. “If you look at our Tech game, if you asked them, not many of our players would say they played well. Today a lot of them feel pretty good about their performance.”

Although Pace was one of the players in double figures for Eastern, she was held well below her points per game average in conference play. She responded to that by leading all players in assists, tallying nine in the game.

Bollant said that Pace’s distribution played a part in spreading around the scoring, but a lot of the success against Tennessee-Martin can be attributed to work the Panthers have been putting in in recent practices.

“I just think our practices have been good,” Bollant said. “They’ve been doing the right things to get the right shots, and the players are getting better.”

The schedule does not get easier for the Panthers, as the OVC’s top-scoring team, Southeast Missouri, will come to Lantz Arena on Saturday. The Redhawks boast two of the conference’s top-five scorers, so Eastern’s scoring depth will likely play a big role in that game as well.


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