Panthers beat Austin Peay 68-56 on Senior Day


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern forward Abby Wahl waves to her family in the crowd after the women’s basketball team’s 68-56 win over Austin Peay on Saturday in Lantz Arena. Wahl scored a season-high 20 points in the game. It was also Senior Day for the Panthers, as Wahl and her teammates Jordyn Hughes and Kira Arthofer were honored before the game.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

Evansville and the OVC Tournament looming for the Eastern women’s basketball, which closed out the regular season at home Saturday afternoon with a 68-56 win over Austin Peay.

The Panthers clinched the fifth seed in the tournament with the win and will face Tennessee State on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

It was Senior Day for the Panthers on Saturday, with guards Kira Arthofer and Jordyn Hughes forward Abby Wahl being honored before the game and were able to get a win in their final game at Lantz Arena.

Head coach Matt Bollant said he was glad to be able to get a win for the seniors.

“Obviously that’s kind of the way you want Senior Day to go,” he said. “It doesn’t always happen that way, and I’m just really proud of our players for playing well. It’s an emotional day and I thought we handled all of that really well and came ready to play.”

The Panthers took control of the game with an 18-7 advantage in the first quarter, holding the Governors scoreless for the first five minutes of the game.

Austin Peay responded a bit in the second, outscoring the Panthers 15-12, but Eastern went into halftime with 30-22 lead.

The Panthers had occasionally come out flat in the third quarter this season, and for the first five minutes of the third Saturday it looked as if that would be the case again.

Austin Peay was able to cut the Panther lead to one point at 39-38, but the Panthers extended the lead with a quick 8-0 run and were able to maintain their eight-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

Eastern forced six turnovers in the fourth and held the Governors to just 4-of-12 shooting to close out the win.

Bollant said he thought the team responded well to the Governors’ run to open the second half, putting them in a strong position entering the final quarter.

“We’ve had a couple third quarters that haven’t been our best, and we just said, ‘not today’ and then had a great response,” he said.

Bollant also said that he was pleased with the defense, which entered the game ninth in the nation with 300 steals. They added 14 more Saturday, including eight in the first half.

“I just through we saw stuff really well. We looked quick to the ball today,” he said. “We played Belmont (on Feb. 17) and didn’t have a single steal, and that’s not us.”

As for the seniors, Arthofer, Hughes and Wahl all started for the 29th-consecutive game, and each contributed to the win as well.

Wahl was tied for the team lead with 20 points and led the team with six rebounds. Arthofer had seven points, a season-high 10 assists, four rebounds and four steals. Hughes scored two points with three rebounds and two steals.

All three said that there were mixed emotions following their final home game, but they were happy to be heading into Evansville after a win.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Hughes said. “It’s been a long ride and I’m just glad we could come out with a win.”

Hughes ended the regular season shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range, the fourth-best percentage in the OVC. She is averaging a career-high 7.5 points per game, putting her fourth on the team in scoring.

Arthofer moved up in a couple of Eastern top-10 lists with her performance Saturday. Her 10 assists moved into seventh in program history and her four steals put her in sole possession of sixth place.

She said she was happy to be included among the other players on those lists.

“It’s incredible, there are some amazing players that are in that list, and to even be placed up with them is just incredible,” she said. “I know one of my teammates I came in with, Grace Lennox, she’s on that list and just to be up there with her, it just means a lot to me.”

She also said she was happy with the performance of the defense both on Saturday and throughout the season.

“Our defense today was incredible,” she said. “That is just so promising heading into postseason. I think that the more we’re anticipating, the more we’re moving around, it just shows how many times we can get them to turn it over and lead to easier shots for us. That’s a lot of our game.”

Arthofer ends the regular season leading the OVC in assists per game and ranking second in steals per game.

Wahl closed out the regular season with a season-high in points. It was a season in which she reached a couple of milestones, becoming the 26th player to eclipse the 1,000-point mark for her career back in December and then on Feb. 19 became to 10th player in program history to reach 1,200 points and 600 rebounds.

She was thankful for the support she received during her time at Eastern that helped her reach that level.

“It’s amazing. It just shows the hard work of our team and the coaches, my parents, my brothers, my whole family who’s supported me through the years,” she said. “It’s just really awesome to be able to do that for them and show that all their hard work was worth it and it paid off.”

Wahl ranked 18th in the OVC in scoring this season and 11th in rebounding.

The Panthers will now prepare for Tennessee State in the opening round of the OVC Tournament. Eastern went 2-0 against the Tigers this season, winning 78-70 in overtime on Jan. 29 and 72-61 on Feb. 19. Tennessee State ended the regular season with eight-straight losses.


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