CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — One bad quarter. That’s what it took to derail the Eastern Illinois women’s basketball team’s chances against Austin Peay on Saturday at the Dunn Center.
That quarter was the second. The Panthers were trailing Austin Peay 17-13 going into the second quarter, but they only scored 6 points on 2-of-13 shooting from the field, 2-of-9 shooting from the free-throw line and five turnovers.
Austin Peay outscored EIU 21-6 to build a 19-point lead going into the half.
EIU was able to recover and cut the lead to 6 points in the fourth quarter, but the hole was too big to overcome as the Panthers lost their 10th straight game, this time a 69-59 defeat to Austin Peay.
“It was really disappointing. Just our lack of belief and we need to make a shot,” EIU coach Matt Bollant said. “When you are on the road and the other team has momentum, somebody has to make a shot. Then we went 0-for-6 from the free-throw line in that stretch. That’s just lack of belief.
“It seems when we get down, they will fight and believe in themselves. Somehow we have to not dig a hole and do that from the start.”
It wasn’t just the missed shots that cost EIU in the second quarter and even the first half in general. EIU turned the ball over 12 times, and Austin Peay scored 18 points off the giveaways.
“They made layups. I didn’t think Taylor Steele had a good first half, and then she changed it around in the second half and was good,” Bollant said. “But she had five turnovers in the first half, just a little sped up. There’s probably some kids handling the ball more than they’ve had to with Grace (Lennox) being out, but they have to grow up fast.”
Defensively, EIU held Austin Peay to 36.1 percent (22-of-61) shooting and forced 16 turnovers. But the Panthers struggled to keep the Governors off the offensive glass. Austin Peay grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, 43 total for the game, and scored 18 second-chance points.
Keisha Gregory, who missed Austin Peay’s last game with a shoulder injury, grabbed five offensive rebounds and finished with nine total rebounds.
“She’s a really good athlete. They are such a better team with her on the floor,” Bollant said. “Just need to find a way to get a body on people and keep them from getting those."
EIU’s offense got off to a quick start and the Panthers were making their layups. Carmen Tellez, Danielle Berry, Jennifer Nehls and Taylor Steele all made layups to give the Panthers an early 8-3 lead with 6:52 left in the quarter.
But then the Panthers started to turn the ball over and miss their layups and their free throws. After scoring 8 points in the 3:08 of the game, EIU only scored 5 points for the rest of the quarter.
Austin Peay only shot 37.5 percent in the quarter but took advantage of EIU’s turnovers. The Panthers had seven turnovers in the first quarter and the Governors scored 11 points off those, which helped APSU go on a 14-5 run in the final 5:48 of the quarter to take a 17-13 lead.
The game remained 17-13 for the first 3 minutes of the second quarter until a Berry bucket. But the Panthers didn’t score again until the 1:06 mark of the quarter.
Austin Peay went on a 17-0 run to build a 34-15 lead. EIU broke the run with a free throw by Berry, and Steele had a traditional three-point, but the Panthers were only 2-of-13 from the line in the game and made just 2 of 9 free throws. EIU also turned the ball over five times, which Austin Peay turned into 7 points as the Governors went into halftime with a 38-19 lead.
A 3 by Carmen Tellez sparked a 13-3 run for Panthers as they cut the lead to 41-32 with 5:12 left in the third quarter. But EIU could only cut the lead down to 8 in the third quarter, 49-41.
The Panthers cut the game to 6 points, 51-45, with 6:39 left in the fourth quarter after two free throws by Berry and a layup by Nehls. But Austin Peay responded with four straight free throws to make it a 10-point game again.
“We got it to 6 and had a great defensive stand. Their kid forced it and we had a great double and that’s how we want to play defensively and I just thought, they had two calls where I thought they bailed (Austin Peay) out,” Bollant said. “We played it exactly how we wanted to. Got the double team and she forced a bad shot and should’ve been a steal.”
EIU later got it down to a 6-point deficit at 61-55 with 52 seconds left, but four free throws and a layup stretched out the lead again for the Governors and they went on to win 69-59.
“I am really proud of how we fought in the second half. We didn’t hang our heads,” Bollant said. “I laid into them at the halftime and was mad at them. They stepped up and played and now we needed to see if we can do that for four quarters. Then whatever the result is, we can live with it.”