Women’s basketball is ‘fresh and rested’ for OVC Tournament


Rob Le Cates

Eastern Illinois University women’s basketball Coach Matt Bollant instructs players during a timeout in the in Saturday afternoon game against Southeast Missouri State University at Lantz Arena.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

With almost a week of preparation and rest, the women’s basketball team will hit the court at Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., and face the winner of the Thursday quarterfinal between SIUE and Tennessee Tech.

​Friday’s 3:30 p.m. tipoff in the OVC Championships semifinal is just another game for the Panthers as they fight to make their way to Saturday’s championship and the NCAA tournament.

​Head coach Matt Bollant said the close-knit team has plans to bring home the championship this weekend.

​“Our team is so tight together and it’s better than it’s ever been,” Bollant said. “We feel like we’re the best team in our league, so we gotta go take it and go earn it. We feel like we’re going there to win it. We’re gonna play against two really good teams, but we’re capable.”

​Bollant said the team is in a good place after Saturday’s senior day loss and they are excited to compete for the first ever OVC championship title and first NCAA Tournament berth since 1988, the only year EIU has made it.

​The team has the double-bye in the tournament as the second seed which means they have to win two games to claim the title.

​The double-bye gave the team extra time to rest, recover, and get ready for the tournament. Bollant said it is a plus as they were able to get some work in and add a few new plays to the mix.

​Senior Morgan Litwiller said that with the double-bye the team could rest, recover, and have fresh legs ready for Friday. They were also able to focus more time on the things that gave them trouble during the season.

​“We can really narrow in on teams that have given us trouble and make some minor changes to the game plan that maybe we missed the first time around,” Litwiller said.

​This is sophomore Macy McGlone’s first OVC Tournament as a first-year transfer from UW-Milwaukee. She also said the team will have fresh legs after the restful double-bye.

​“Our legs are going to be fresh on Friday and it’s going to be a huge advantage for us,” McGlone said.

​Senior Lariah Washington said that not only has the double-bye been nice, but the chance for the team to obtain that double-bye has been nice.

​“We’ve worked for this and it’s nice to finally be on this side of the bracket where we can get this,” Washington said. “Just allows our team to get our thoughts together and really prepare for these big games.”

​Sophomore Taris Thornton echoed the other’s thoughts and added that the team’s hard work has paid off.

​“I think the double-bye has helped with preparing, but also allowing us to get the rest we need to come out and play how we know we need to,” Thornton said. “It’s also nice to just be at the top this year and knowing how hard we worked, it is paying off”

​Last year, the team lost in the first round of the tournament to Tennessee State, but the team is not focused on last year going into the tournament.

​Litwiller said the team is not focusing on the past as they enter the tournament Friday.

​“I think after last year, our team is not looking back,” Litwiller said. “We don’t want to focus on what has already happened because then we are dwelling on something that doesn’t matter.”

​Washington had similar thoughts and said what happened last year’s tournament doesn’t matter now.

​“This is a completely new year and we’ve worked super hard all year to get to this moment,” Washington said.

​She said she and the team are excited for the weekend and that each player on the team has good things to bring to the court.

​“I’m looking forward to just be able to play these games with my team,” Washington said. “[I’m] also looking forward to getting the win Friday and winning the OVC Championship. [We are] looking to get two wins this weekend to lead us to the NCAA Tournament. Everyone on the team brings something to the table. We all have the same goal and work hard for each other, so it’s really fun to play together and just can’t wait to do that this weekend.”

Thornton said she is going to give everything she has to the team for this weekend as they compete with more heart and fight than before.

​“I am looking to compete and give everything that I got for my team and for myself to prove to everyone how good we are and that we deserve to be at the top,” Thornton said. “And to just have fun in the end with the seniors. This year, I’m looking for our team to have more of a fight and more heart than last year and that is something that we have already and we have shown it all year, we just have to show it the whole game.”

McGlone said the team has fought throughout the season and are ready for anything that comes their way. She also said she wants to play to the best of her ability for the team.

​“What I am most excited about this weekend is getting to play with these girls,” McGlone said. “We have fought through a lot together from preseason till now and I know we are ready to take on anyone. This year I am looking to bring a strong presence in the paint for my team. I just want to do my role to the best of my ability.”

​As previously mentioned, the game tips off at 3:30 p.m. Friday as they play the winner of Thursday’s match between Tennessee Tech and SIUE.

​Tickets for the game can be bought through the EIU ticket office here: 217-581-2106 or through Ticketmaster here: https://www.ticketmaster.com/ohio-valley-conference-basketball-tournament-tickets/artist/906008

Kate Stevens can be reached at 518-2812 or [email protected]