Panthers start three-game homestand Thursday, host Eastern Kentucky

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The Daily Eastern News

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News Abby Wahl races up-court with the ball during Eastern’s 77-65 loss to Southeast Missouri Jan. 25 in Lantz Arena. Eastern hosts Eastern Kentucky Thursday in Lantz Arena.

JJ Bullock, Editor-In-Chief

It would be really easy for the Eastern women’s basketball team (6-4 OVC) to look past its Thursday matchup against Eastern Kentucky (2-8 OVC) and look ahead to the more pivotal Saturday game in Lantz Arena against Morehead State (4-6 OVC).

But Eastern knows what can happen if it overlooks an opponent, and that is why they are as focused on Eastern Kentucky as they would be anyone else.

Eastern Kentucky does not provide much of a scare upon first inspection.

The Colonels have no players among the top-20 in scoring in the OVC, they rank 11th in scoring defense and 7th in scoring offense. But the Colonels have also shown this season, via a double-overtime loss to Tennessee Tech (9-1 OVC), that they aren’t going to just be walked all over. And that is exactly why Eastern is not taking this team lightly.

“I think for the most part our players always respect the opponent,” Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said. “(Eastern Kentucky) went to Tennessee Tech and lost in double-overtime and Tech has been as good at home as anybody in our league. So, I think our kids are confident but they still respect Eastern (Kentucky) and know Eastern (Kentucky) can be pretty good.”

Bollant has made sure that his team has been very aware of what Eastern Kentucky did against Tennessee Tech and also reminded his team that Eastern Kentucky is playing with nothing to lose.

“(Eastern Kentucky) is going to come in here free and confident and not very tight at all,” Bollant said. “That can be an advantage for a team that’s down there.”

Eastern’s game against Eastern Kentucky will be just the beginning of a three game homestand for the Panthers, that if executed well, could propel the Panthers up the OVC standings.

Morehead State will come to Lantz Arena on Saturday, followed by Southern Illinois Edwardsville (1-9 OVC) on Feb. 13.

The Panthers, sitting in fifth place in the OVC with a 6-4 record, will likely be trying to take advantage of the fact they have three straight home games against teams with worse records than them.

Bollant said he is trying to make sure his team does not start looking too far ahead at future games and is trying to keep his team’s focus on Eastern Kentucky.

“Certainly, I know in my head that this is a big three games, we have got five of our next six at home too, so five of the next six we really have got a great chance, if we play well, to put ourselves in really good shape,” Bollant said. “But at the same time if we lose Thursday then some of the other ones don’t matter, so let’s take care of Thursday.”

Eastern’s Saturday contest against Morehead State will also be the Panthers’ annual “Care Game” in which the Panthers raise money for cancer research. The Panthers raised just under $15,000 at last year’s Care Game and have partnered with over 150 classrooms and Sarah Bush Lincoln for this year’s game.

Assistant coach Kylee Simmons has organized a lot of the Care Game, and Bollant said he was very appreciative and thankful of the effort put out by her to set up this year’s event.

Eastern and Eastern Kentucky tip off at 5:15 p.m. Thursday night in Lantz Arena.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]