Pace leads Panthers to 3rd-straight win

Eastern+guard+Karle+Pace+drives+for+a+layup+in+a+game+against+Eastern+Kentucky+on+Jan.+16.+Pace+scored+a+career-high+32+points+in+a+73-68+win+for+the+Panthers.+

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern guard Karle Pace drives for a layup in a game against Eastern Kentucky on Jan. 16. Pace scored a career-high 32 points in a 73-68 win for the Panthers.

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

A defensive turnaround has turned a four-game losing streak into a three-game winning streak for the Eastern women’s basketball team.

Saturday’s 73-68 win against Eastern Kentucky improved the Panthers’ conference record to 4-4 and moved them into seventh place in the OVC.

After allowing 76.3 points per game during the four-game losing streak, the Panthers are allowing just 61 points per game over their last three games.

“I think we’re doing the right things defensively,” Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said. “We weren’t necessarily getting enough stops, and I think we grew defensively in our man and buzz, and are taking those steps. We were scoring enough points but we weren’t getting enough stops.”

Eastern’s defense was able to hold Eastern Kentucky to just 40 points through three quarters, including just 10 points in the third quarter, before allowing the Colonels to score 28 points in the fourth.

“They got more aggressive, they started making a run, and we didn’t rebound down the rebound real well,” Bollant said. “I think started trying to protect the lead instead of staying aggressive, and thankfully we found enough ways to make it happen.”

While the defense was clamping down on Eastern Kentucky in the third quarter, the Panther offense also began to operate at a higher level, scoring 21 points in the quarter.

This surge was led by senior guard Karle Pace, who after scoring 7 points in the first half, exploded for 25 points in the second half. She earned a new career-high with 32 points in the game and moved into fifth place in the conference in scoring.

“Honestly, I don’t know how I went from 7 (points) to 25. I just kind of went out there and played. It was a very close game and I knew we that we had to get the lead somehow,” Pace said. ” I wasn’t hitting any threes in the first half, but I’m a shooter. I’m going to keep shooting, and then I found my rhythm.”

Bollant said that Pace’s second-half scoring outburst almost didn’t happen.

“She tweaked her knee in the second quarter,” he said. “We weren’t even sure if she was going to be able to play, and then she said ‘I can go,’ and then she stepped up and scored 25.”

Pace was not the only Eastern player to record a new career-high Saturday.

Junior guard Kira Arthofer tallied 11 assists and continues to lead the OVC in assists per game, now averaging 4.9. 

“I think Kira is playing amazing,” Pace said. “She’s the leader we need as a point guard, she handles the ball, she gets us the shots that we need and she takes the shot that’s open for her.”

Bollant said Arthofer continued to grow over the offseason and has improved from last season.

“She’s matured so much since her sophomore year,” he said. “She’s just finding people and making the right decisions.”

He also said that Arthofer’s contributions on defense have been good as well. She currently ranks sixth in the OVC averaging 1.8 steals per game.

“She’s our defensive leader, and for her to play 39 minutes and pick the ball up, keep it in front and pressure it, she’s just really playing the two ends of the floor really well.”

The Panthers will be on the road in Nashville later this week with games scheduled against Belmont on Jan. 21 and Tennessee State Jan. 23.

Belmont currently sits in first place in the OVC standings, but have only been able to play one conference game to this point and have not played since Dec. 20.

Tennessee State has yet to win a game this season and have a conference record of 0-7 and overall record of 0-9.

 

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