Second half turnaround for Panthers leads to win in home opener


Monique Peterson

Lyric Johnson (4), a freshman guard brings the ball up the court during the women’s basketball exhibition game against the Missouri-St. Louis Tritons at Lantz Arena Monday evening. Johnson had four rebounds, one steal and two assists. The Panthers won 65-54 against the Tritons.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern women’s basketball team struggled in the first half as they trailed University of Missouri Saint Louis going into halftime but came out in the second half a new team as they beat UMSL 65-54 in their season home opener Monday evening.

The Panthers were led by senior guard Lariah Washington who recorded 22 points, six rebounds, three steals, and two assists. Fifteen of her 22 points came in the second half.

EIU was down by 11 points with about four minutes remaining in the second half. The Panthers were struggling offensively until the turnaround layup by junior guard Jacqueline Maulucci assisted by freshman guard Lyric Johnson lit the crowd up and spoke life into EIU.

That play led to a set of two last minute three-point shots by Washington and sophomore Miah Monahan to close the gap to an Eastern three-point deficit that brought the score to 28-25 at the half.

Coach Matt Bollant said that they made adjustments at the half to come back out to turn the team’s momentum around.

Bollant said he challenged Washington to get some more shots in and for sophomore forward Macy McGlone to get more shots and rebounds in the second half. He wanted to the team as a whole to go out and get more rebounds.

He also saw the positives going into the half on the defensive end of things and was confident in his team going into the half.

“I felt like we were fine because we were defending even though we didn’t play well offensively, we were only down three,” Bollant said. “I knew eventually we’d start making the shots.”

Monahan said the team had to bring the energy going into the third quarter. Washington echoed her thoughts and said that as they usually struggle in the third quarter, they had to bring the energy to be their best.

The Panthers turned their game around and dominated in the second half. They scored 40 points compared to their first half 25.

As Bollant and Washington said they usually struggle in the third quarter, the third quarter was statistically the best for them as they outscored UMSL 21 points to 12.

Washington said it meant a lot that the team could make adjustments and made the third quarter their best one of the game rather than the alternative.

“Just coming out and having that one be our best one just showed a lot,” Washington said.

Monahan said that the turnaround showed that the team acts on what they talk about in the locker room at halftime.

“It means a lot, it shows how we care so much,” Monahan said. “You can say so many things and not actually act on it. It’s a good feeling that like, people are listening and actually acting on it.”

They also had a lead of 14 during the fourth quarter as they started to slow down their play as time dwindled down.

The turnaround in the second half led to the Panthers taking the 65-54 win and getting their first win of the season.

The Panthers will play their first game on the road at Western Illinois on Monday evening.

Kate Stevens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]