Steele returning to full strength for Panthers

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Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern guard Taylor Steele advances the ball in transition against Murray State Feb. 20 in Lantz Arena. Steele had a season-high 17 points in the game, a 66-46 win for the Panthers.

Adam Tumino, Women's Basketball Reporter

In just her third game back after a 10-game absence, junior guard Taylor Steele led the Eastern women’s basketball team in scoring in a 66-46 win over Murray State, guaranteeing the Panthers a spot in the OVC tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Steele scored 17 points, shot 5-of-8 from three-point range and recorded four rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

It was her highest-scoring game of the season, and in the three games since returning from illness, she is averaging 12 points per game.

“I definitely felt today more that I was 100 percent back,” Steele said. “Even in practice this week it felt a lot better than the week before.”

Junior guard Karle Pace, who was the Panthers’ second-highest scorer with 14 points, said that it is nice to have Steele back.

“She’s my splash sister,” Pace said. “I think we have a lot of chemistry since we’ve been here, and we can get each other the ball and put it in the basket.”

Pace and Steele were the Panthers’ leading scorers last season. Steele shot 34.3 percent from three last season, and although that percentage has dropped to 31.4 this season, Steele is still the team’s fourth-leading scorer averaging 10.8 points per game.

She has increased her rebounding from 2.9 per game to 4.6 this season and her steals per game from 1.1 to 1.6 per game. 

Even though the Panthers were 7-3 without Steele this season, head coach Matt Bollant said having her back makes the team even better.

“She just has the confidence that it’s going in,” Bollant said. “And that belief is kind of contagious, when one person makes one now it’s a whole lot easier for the second person to make it.”

He also said how her intelligence on the court makes everyone look better.

“She’s just so smart,” Bollant said. “She’s in the right place at the right time. We can run any set, put her in any spot and she’ll know exactly what to do, which is great as well. We look smarter when Taylor is on the floor.”

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2182 or [email protected]