CHARLESTON — Only two games into the season, and it's tough to get a read on the Evansville women's basketball team, Eastern Illinois' next opponent at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Lantz Arena.
The Purple Aces are coming off a 14-17 season, which included a 73-63 loss to EIU, and it looked like they had a good start to the season with an 89-81 win over Murray State, which is picked to finish in the top half of the Ohio Valley Conference.
But then Evansville traveled to Alabama A&M, a team that only won five games last season, and suffered a lopsided loss. Evansville was held to eight points in the fourth quarter and lost 70-56 to Alabama A&M. So the Purple Aces come into Saturday's game with two completely different games and a 1-1 record.
EIU coach Matt Bollant expects to see the Evansville team from the first game of the season.
"They played well against Murray State and were up 22 in the first half and then went on the road and I am sure their coach did not feel like they played great on the road," Bollant said. "I would expect more of how they played against Murray State. It's a short road game for them. I am just excited to be back at home and hoping the community will support our team for a 1 p.m. game."
The Purple Aces have a graduate transfer who the Panthers are very familiar with. Hannah Noe played at Southeast Missouri State the last three seasons but is a graduate transfer at Evansville. Noe averaged 10.7 points per game last season and hit 69 3-pointers. Noe hit nine 3-pointers in a game at Lantz Arena last season and scored 33 points in the season-opener against Murray State.
"She's definitely comfortable in this gym," Bollant said. "They have a kid that's a good shooter in Noe and they have a good roster. It will be a good game for us."
EIU comes into the game with an 0-2 record and is looking to get its offense going. The Panthers scored 64 points in the season-opener against Northern Illinois and had only 46 points against Wright State on Wednesday. EIU is only shooting 32 percent (41-of-128) for the season, including 23 percent (14-of-61) from behind the arc and 60.9 percent (14-of-23) from the free throw line.
Bollant said the team has spent more time shooting in practice.
"Just work on the little things. We've done a lot of shooting this week to get the confidence up," Bollant said. "Anytime the ball doesn't go in, you try and get the confidence up. So we are taking more shots in practice. I think we will play better offensively tomorrow."
EIU picked up a win over Evansville last season, and another win could give the Panthers a good boost after a couple of double-digits losses to start the season. A win over Evansville also could show the Panthers they can compete in the top half of the OVC since the Purple Aces beat Murray State to open the season.
"You want to see the results for what they are working for and because they beat Murray State, that will help," Bollant said. "Even though we played two tough games, getting this win will show us that we can be in the ballpark in the OVC. The first two games were humbling, so we will try and get this game (Saturday) and it will tell us we aren't far off."