Panthers lose by 24 on road against Skyhawks

Adam Tumino, Women's Basketball Reporter

The Daily Eastern News
Karina Delgado | The Daily Eastern News
Guard Jordyn Hughes driving past a defender in Eastern’s 77-71 overtime win against Southern Illinois Edwardsville on Feb. 15 at Lantz Arena.

The Eastern women’s basketball team tied its largest loss of the season Saturday against Tennessee-Martin. The Panthers lost 88-64 to the Skyhawks on the road, snapping a four-game winning streak.

Eastern is now 9-5 in conference play and in fifth place. Tennessee-Martin, which lost to the Panthers on Jan. 23, is now 12-2 in OVC play and in a three-way tie for first place.

The Skyhawks were coming off their first home loss of the season, falling to Southeast Missouri 71-69 on Feb. 13.

The Panther offense struggled for much of the game, scoring 11 points in the second quarter and 12 in the fourth. They shot 45.3 percent from the field, but head coach Matt Bollant said that turnovers prevented them from effectively scoring.

“We shot a good percentage but we just didn’t get nearly shots because we had so many turnovers,” Bollant said.

The game was the second straight for the Panthers where they lost the turnover battle, despite coming into those games forcing an average of four more turnovers per game than they committed.

“I think we’ve got to me more fundamentally sound,” Bollant said. “We’ve got pass with our feet on the floor, we’ve got to make the easy pass, and we’ve got to value the basketball more.”

Another uncharacteristic area in which the Panthers struggled was defense. The 88 points were the second-most they allowed in a game this season and the most given up in regulation.

Eastern lost 92-87 in overtime to Murray State on Jan. 30, but only 78 of the Racers’ points were scored in regulation.

Four Tennessee-Martin players scored 14 or more points. Maddie Waldrop and Brittni Moore each scored 14, Kyannah Grant scored 18 and Chelsey Perry scored 22 to lead all scorers in the game.

Combined, the four players shot 24-of-39 from the field including 8-of-14 from three-point range.

“As good as Waldrop and Perry are, we tried to take away those two, and the other two just kind of stepped up and made shots and made plays,” Bollant said.

Eastern has four games remaining in the season. Two of the games come against opponents the Panthers have beaten already this season (Austin Peay and Southern Illinois Edwardsville) and two come against teams that beat them (Murray State and Southeast Missouri).

Especially against Southeast Missouri and into any possible matchups in the OVC tournament, Bollant said that the Panther defense needs perform better than it did against the Skyhawks.

“We’ve got to grow defensively,” Bollant said. “We’ve got to be better. If we’re going to beat the top teams, you’ve got to be able to get stops, and we didn’t get near enough stops today. That’s the challenge on Thursday, can we be better defensively against Murray State.”

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