Panthers tuning up as season nears

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

It has been nearly two weeks since the Eastern women’s basketball team began a full practice schedule on Oct. 14.

That was when they could start 20-hour practice weeks in preperation for the season, which begins Nov. 25.

The Panthers are coming off a season in which they finished fourth in the OVC and won an OVC Tournament game, and head coach Matt Bollant said he is happy with how the team has looked in practice so far.

“You can tell the veterans are better, and just every player has gotten better and has taken a step,” he said. “And our culture has just really taken a step as far as just the energy and enthusiasm that the players are playing with.”

As a part of the 20-hour weeks, Bollant said the team played its first scrimmage on Saturday, and he and his staff were impressed with how the players handled it.

“We had our first scrimmage Saturday, an intrasquad scrimmage with refs, and to the staff it didn’t look like a first scrimmage,” he said. “It looked like something later in the year where the kids were skilled and smart and knew what they were doing, so it’s been very encouraging so far.”

With less than a month to go until the regular season begins, there are still some areas where the team can improve, according to Bollant.

“Rebounding is something that we’ve got to continue to get better at,” he said. “We haven’t been very big and a lot of times we play skilled kids and maybe four guards as a time, so it’s always going to be something we’ve got to work on and focus on to be a good rebounding team. We’re hoping to play Northwestern and Minnesota, two Big Ten teams, early so obviously we’re going to have to be ready to go on the boards.”

Rebounding was an area where the Panthers struggled last season, finishing 11th in the conference in both offensive rebounding and rebound margin.

Something that factored into the Panthers’ success last season was the play of their freshmen class, especially Lariah Washington, who was named OVC Freshman of the Year.

Bollant says that he feels good about this year’s freshmen class as well, although they are coming on to a team full of returning players.

“They’re adjusting very well and have a great spirit about them,” Bollant said. “Obviously they’re walking in to a little different situation with playing time because we have eight returners that played and Bri Mishler, who is a really talented transfer who is eligible to play now.”

 

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