Pace surpasses 1,000-point milestone Thursday

Adam Tumino, Women's Basketball Reporter

A third-quarter layup is usually not a big deal, but one by Eastern’s Karle Pace Thursday evening against Southern Illinois Edwardsville certainly was. 

It gave Pace 1,000 points in her collegiate career, making her just the 25th player in the program’s history to reach that mark. 

Pace said that, although it was not the focus, reaching 1,000 points was a nice achievement. The fact that it came in a win (77-71), she said, made it much better. 

“If we would’ve lost this game, it would’ve been not as big of a celebration,” Pace said. “It’s just a little milestone, I would say.”

The milestone came in just the third season for Pace at Eastern, a little earlier than she thought it might happen. 

“I didn’t really expect it to be this year. I know I’m a scorer and stuff, but I don’t really think about it too much,” Pace said. “It’s way better winning.”

The win for the Panthers was their fourth in a row, improving their OVC record to 9-4 and tying them for fourth place in the conference with Tennessee Tech. 

Pace was averaging 15.5 points per game coming into the game against Southern Illinois Edwardsville, the sixth-highest mark in the conference. 

Not only is this season Pace’s best season, but it is also the most impressive one for the Panthers in years. The success of both Pace and the team this season may have seemed unlikely just three seasons ago. 

In Pace’s freshman season, which was the first for head coach Matt Bollant at Eastern as well, the Panthers won just three games all season and went 2-16 in conference play. 

Pace was thrust into action following senior Grace Lennox’s season-ending knee injury. She made the most of her opportunity, averaging 8.6 points per game. 

As a sophomore, she took her game a step further, leading the team with 13.9 points per game before scoring even more this season. 

This scoring and progression comes from a player who had no Division I offers when Eastern began recruiting her. 

“Her high school coach said when I started recruiting her, ‘She just has the clutch gene,’” Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said. “A kid that can make shots when it matters, that’s a huge deal. Anybody can make shots when you’ve got a lead and it’s easy, but when the game is on the line and a kid can make shots, and obviously she’s proven that for us this year.”

When the Panthers play on Feb. 22, Pace’s parents will be at Lantz Arena when she is presented with a ball commemorating her milestone. The game just so happens to be against Austin Peay from Pace’s hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee. 

The Governors may have missed out on recruiting a local player, and Eastern has been reaping the benefits. 

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