Analysis: Despite tournament exit, Panthers played well

Blake Faith, Basketball Reporter

The Daily Eastern News
Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News
Karle Pace defends a Tennessee-Martin ballhandler at the top of the key during Eastern’s 63-52 loss March 6 at the Ford Center in Evansville. Eastern’s season eded in the semifinals of the tournament.

Eastern’s women’s basketball team played the exact same way in their two OVC Tournament games.

Despite the Panthers going 1-1 in their games and being knocked out in the semifinals, the Panthers found ways to be successful in their help defense and the ability of having multiple players making big plays when depended on.

Help Defense

At the OVC Tournament the Panthers’ help defense was evident. The Panthers played a mix of man and zone defense that created turnovers in both games.

Particularly in the game against Jacksonville State the Panthers were able to harass ball handlers, but it was their ability to not even let their opponent dribble which was evident. The Panthers were able to stop the Gamecocks’ offense by defending their opponents and making them commit traveling violations.

The help defense also created steals and blocks. Freshman Lariah Washington is sneaky in getting into the passing lanes and coming up with steals. In both games Washington, along with other Panthers, found ways to get in the lanes and ignite the offense from their defense.

When the Panthers make these steals their ability to run the floor and finish at the rim is evident especially in a play against Jacksonville State where junior Karle Pace made a steal and Washington filled her lane by cutting to the basket and finishing the layup

The help defense also allowed the Panthers to protect the rim. In a particular play against Jacksonville State that helped the Panthers come back from a deficit, Pace slid from the center of the interior to the side and blocked a crucial layup that saved the game.

Big Time Players Make Big Time Plays

If you watched the team play in the OVC Tournament every player that played in either game made one or two plays to save or win the game. Every team if lucky has one or two players that can do this. This women’s basketball team has players that can produce in multiple ways.

Pace led the Panthers in scoring during the regular season, but made only two field goals in the OVC Tournament. Pace however made the crucial block against Jacksonville State and made all 11 of her free throws in the tournament. When an offensive player is not scoring like they are used to it could damage their confidence.

Pace admitted that she was down on herself, particularly against Jacksonville State, but the idea of making the next play that was echoed and the comfort she had from her coaches and teammates helped her find ways to produce on the court.

Junior Taylor Steele and sophomore Abby Wahl, who have scored and played significant minutes in the season, also had their moments of plays where if not done the games would have been different.

Steele in both games got the offense going with her three-point shooting ability. Against Tennessee-Martin Steele went 4-of-8 from the three-point line and made her shots during key stretches of the game to help keep the Panthers in the game.

Wahl found a way to be in the right place at the right time in both games.

Offensively Wahl positioned herself, whether it was a mid range shot an open three-pointer or the interior, in a place to where she could score or get an offensive rebound. Defensively, she got into position and rebounded, but also crept into passing lanes ready for an opponent’s mistaken pass to get a steal.

Even players that do not necessarily jump out on the box score came in and made plays or played minutes in these tournament games.

Freshman Morgan Litwiller scored five points total in the tournament, but came at the end of the Jacksonville State game where she made a three-pointer to bring the Panthers back and a mid-range shot to give the Panthers a lead.

Sophomore Jordyn Huges made crucial stretches in both games where she made three-pointers and used her ability to drive and finish layups.

Players such as sophomore Kira Arthofer, junior Grace McRae and senior Jennifer Nehls, who are not recognized for scoring, play made big plays defensively. Arthofer harasses ballhandlers, which played a part in the Panthers’ ability to make steals and make their opponents commit traveling violations.

For Nehls and McCrae it is being able to go into the game, play defense, rebound and fill their roles on the court to do whatever it takes to help their teams win.

The women’s basketball team may have lost to Tennessee-Martin in the semifinals, but the Panthers had good moments in their games that kept them in both outings.

Blake Faith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]