Panthers come up short against Belmont

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

In what was a second-straight game against a second-place OVC team, the Eastern women’s basketball team fell short in the final minute against Belmont at home Thursday evening, losing to the Bruins 77-75.

After having trouble scoring in their last two games, in which they combined for 99 points, the Panther offense found its rhythm Thursday, despite playing against the OVC’s top defense.

Eastern outshot the Bruins percentage-wise from the field, from three-point range and from the free-throw line and scored their most points in seven games. But Belmont’s offense persisted to pick up their third-straight win.

Eastern is now 6-7 in conference play while Belmont improved to 6-2.

Eastern head coach Matt Bollant said that he felt the team played well, especially considering they were missing two of their four top scorers in Karle Pace and Morgan Litwiller, who sat out due to injuries.

I’m really proud of our team,” he said. “I thought we fought, considering we had two starters out, we fought and put ourselves in position. Give (Belmont) a lot of credit. They made big shots in that fourth quarter, and we did too. They just made one more than we did.”

Coming off of two games that were defensive battles, Bollant said he contributes the offensive output today to the team working to rebuild confidence in their shooting.

“I thought we passed it better, and I think our kids got in the gym to get their confidence back,” Bollant said. “We just weren’t as confident shooting the ball, and today we had our confidence to actually shoot the ball.”

A lot of the good passing Bollant mentioned came from junior guard Kira Arthofer, the OVC leader in assists per game. Arthofer set a new career high with 12 assists, eclipsing her previous mark of 11 set on Jan. 16 against Eastern Kentucky.

Sophomore guard Lariah Washington also tied a career high in assists with 6, equaling her output against Western Illinois on Dec. 6.

Washington led the team with 23 points, her second-straight 20-point game after averaging 9 points in the four games prior.

She shot 9-of-17 from the field and 4-of-4 from three-point range. She now has 18 three pointers this season, just one shy of her total from last season with eight games left on the schedule.

“She’s really worked on her shot, this summer she worked with a trainer to change things, and she’s in here every day,” Bollant said. “She just believes it’s going to go in now, and that’s quite a change. She’s doing the work to make it happen.”

Junior forward Abby Wahl and junior guard Jordyn Hughes also scored in double figures for the Panthers, recording 15 and 10 points respectively.

Freshman forward Parker Stafford set new season highs with 13 minutes, 6 rebounds and 5 points. Stafford has been getting the most playing time out of the Eastern freshmen, often coming into the game to spell Wahl.

“She just is aggressive,” Bollant said. “She works really hard to get better at things. Today she caught it and finished, and she’s a good defender and she’s physical.”

Belmont had four players score in double figures, led by freshman guard Destinee Wells with a career-high 25 points, 19 of which came in the first half. Junior forward Conley Chinn scored 18 while shooting 5-of-8 from three.

Eastern plays again Saturday in Lantz Arena against Tennessee State, the last-place team in the OVC with a conference record of 0-12. The Panthers beat the Tigers on the road 73-55 Jan. 23. The game will tip off at 1 p.m.

 

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