Hughes steps up, shows Eastern’s versatility and soundness

Eastern+guard+Jordyn+Hughes+drives+on+a+defender+against+Morehead+State+on+Feb.+8+in+Lantz+Arena.+The+Panthers+won+the+game+67-62+in+overtime+and+Hughes+recorded+seven+points.+
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Hughes steps up, shows Eastern’s versatility and soundness

Eastern guard Jordyn Hughes drives on a defender against Morehead State on Feb. 8 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won the game 67-62 in overtime and Hughes recorded seven points.

Eastern guard Jordyn Hughes drives on a defender against Morehead State on Feb. 8 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won the game 67-62 in overtime and Hughes recorded seven points.

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern guard Jordyn Hughes drives on a defender against Morehead State on Feb. 8 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won the game 67-62 in overtime and Hughes recorded seven points.

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern guard Jordyn Hughes drives on a defender against Morehead State on Feb. 8 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won the game 67-62 in overtime and Hughes recorded seven points.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

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With under a minute to play in overtime, Eastern sophomore Jordyn Hughes stepped in front of a pass for a huge takeaway before letting sophomore Kira Arthofer find her for a transition 3-pointer, effectively closing out Morehead State in a win at Lantz Arena.

Hughes, though, may not have even been in the game, let alone had the opportunity to make that critical, game-sealing steal and score without starting freshman Morgan Litwiller picking up her fifth and final foul with just over three minutes to play in regulation.

That’s not to discredit Litwiller, who provided two 3-pointers and a triplet of rebounds with a block and a steal to boot before fouling out, but Eastern continues to show that its roster’s depth and versatility pay dividends over and over again.

“I always sit on the bench and say, ‘What can I do? What can I do to bring life and energy to the starters?’,” Hughes said. “If I’m not making shots, fine, I’ll get some stops on defense or make some plays. I’ll do whatever I can.”

It’s no secret that junior Karle Pace, who posted a game-high 25 points with 5 coming in OT, has been the staple of the offense for some time, and now freshman Lariah Washington, Eastern’s top scorer in four of its last six games, has stepped in as a huge threat, but the overall success of the team has relied on being well-oiled in multiple facets.

For example, it’s uncommon to see any team go a full quarter of basketball without a single point and go on to win.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen,” head coach Matt Bollant said laughingly, likely because that’s exactly how it went down in the second quarter, long before Hughes was able to put the game on ice.

Bollant said he told his team at halftime to “keep defending, and just respond the right way. You guys were great to start the game. Start the third quarter with the same swagger, same confidence you had to start that game.”

The message was not to make too many adjustments; just sticking to what’s working will get the job done.

The Panthers have the liberty to operate that way because of the different threats on both sides of the ball, whether it shows up on the stat sheet or not.

It’s hard to imagine Eastern already having the highest conference win total since 2013 without the likes Arthofer, who is perhaps the best on-ball perimeter defender on the team, or Litwiller, who has 40 points in the last three games.

The “respond the right way” mentality can work wonders when you have a rock in the post like sophomore Abby Wahl or a well-rounded bench guard like freshman Paige Schumann, but it’s only reliable when you have the talented personnel to back it up.

The Panthers are proving that’s what they have for the first time in a long time.

Oh, and this is all while one of the veterans on the roster, junior Taylor Steele, is sidelined.

Sure, leadership, both from a coaching and on-court perspective, is the key, but the rest of the roster is the engine, and a good basketball team needs both to get moving throughout the season.

Eastern’s proving that it takes a whole gamut of factors to spin together wins, but if they keep that focus, there’s no reason to believe it will stop anytime soon.

 

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