Panthers beat Titans 83-54 in exhibition


Ashanti Thomas | The Daily Eastern News

Kira Arthofer, a senior guard, pushes the ball towards the basket at the Wednesday night women’s basketball game against Illinois Wesleyan in Lantz Arena. Arthofer scored a total of 16 points. The Panthers won 83-54 against the Titans.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

Next up for the Eastern women’s basketball team is the regular season.

The Panthers played their lone exhibition of the season Wednesday night against Division III Illinois Wesleyan in Lantz Arena, beating the Titans by a score of 83-54. 

Eastern head coach Matt Bollant, entering his fifth season with the Panthers, said that the team will be looking to continue growing in preparation for the regular season opener Nov. 9. 

“We didn’t shoot the ball great, and I felt like we took some early threes,” he said. “Just grow from it. We had a lot of open shots that we didn’t make today, but I feel like we just weren’t really in a rhythm and shot it probably a little bit quick.”

The game was close through the first half, with Eastern holding a 38-32 lead at halftime. The Panther defense allowed the Titans to shoot 6-of-15 from three in the first half.

But the Panthers came out strong in the second half, outscoring Illinois Wesleyan 45-22 in the final 20 minutes, including a 24-8 fourth quarter. 

Bollant said the Panthers played more disciplined defense in the second half after struggling a bit early on. 

“We overhelped at times and were a little bit slow to sink and rotate” he said. “I thought we did a better job, and probably wore them down a little bit, in the fourth quarter.”

Illinois Wesleyan made just one field goal in the fourth quarter, shooting just 1-of-16. The Titans shot 33.3 percent from the field in the game, but were 10-of-25 from three. Eastern was just 5-of-22 from three but shot 47.6 percent from the field, due in part to dominating the Titans in the paint. 

Eastern scored 62 of its 83 points in the paint while Illinois Wesleyan scored just 16 points in the paint. 

The Panthers also capitalized on turnovers. They forced 28 turnovers in the game, including 19 steals, and scored 33 points off those turnovers. 

They also got contributions from up and down the roster, with the four players scoring in double figures. 

Senior guard Kira Arthofer led the Panthers with 16 points and 7 steals in the game while shooting 8-of-12 from the field. Junior guard Lariah Washington scored 15 points while senior forward Abby Wahl added 12. Washington and Wahl, who were named to the preseason All-OVC team, each had 8 rebounds to lead the team. 

Several Eastern freshmen also played well off the bench, led by guard Miah Monahan with 13 points in 19 minutes. Freshman guard Julia Bengston scored 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting and freshman forward Taris Thornton had 6 points and 5 rebounds in just 5 minutes off the bench. 

For a large portion of the fourth quarter, Eastern had five underclassmen on the court. 

Bollant said that he liked what he saw out of the younger players, and expects them to play a role on the team throughout the season. 

“I thought Miah and Julia played really well in the first half and a good third quarter, and I thought Taris had a good spark in the fourth quarter. Encouraging to see it, and we’re going to need everybody. Right now we’ve got 12 healthy bodies and we want to play a fast, aggressive style, so it’s going to be important that everybody contributes, and certainly those guys did today.”

Arthofer said that the team came together during the offseason, and this closeness will benefit the team in the long run. 

“I think our team is extremely close, and having that close bond off the court brings it onto the court every single day, which is amazing. We’re able to push each other, cheer each other on when we’re on opposite teams even, and just really keep each other encouraged, which I think is a really big piece for us. We have a lot of great returners coming in, and the newcomers are challenging us every single day too.”

The Panthers will be at home for the regular season opener Nov. 9 against Lindenwood. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.


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