CHARLESTON — The Eastern Illinois women's basketball team has seen its fair share of quality players through its first four Ohio Valley Conference games already - Murray State's Ke'Shunan James, Morehead State's Miranda Crockett and Eastern Kentucky's A'Queen Hayes. But now the Panthers face the player who leads the OVC in scoring - Tennessee State's Tia Wooten.
The junior forward is averaging 21.5 points per game for the Tigers, and Wooten has even picked up her play in OVC competition. In four conference games, she's averaging 26.5 points per game. On the season she's averaging 7.9 rebounds per game and even picked up that pace in OVC play with 9.0 rebounds per contest.
EIU hosts Tennessee State and Wooten at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday at Lantz Arena.
"It revolves around her and she makes them go," EIU coach Matt Bollant said. "We are excited to be home and we hope to have a good crowd to support us."
EIU comes into the game with a 1-14 record and is 0-4 in the OVC. The Panthers have lost their last 12 games.
Despite Wooten's efforts this season, the Tigers are only 3-10 overall and 1-3 in the OVC, with the lone win coming against Tennessee Tech.
The Tigers are fourth in the conference with 68.9 points per game, and after Wooten, Taylor Roberts is averaging 15.5 points per game. Those are the only two in double figures. In the win against Tech, TSU was 7-of-11 from 3-point range, and Bollant said the Panthers have to limit TSU's outside shooting.
Kaliya Griffin has 20 3-pointers on the season, and Taylor Williams has 18 3-pointers and is shooting 36 percent from behind the arc.
"They shot it very well. They had three different kinds make two 3s, so that really helped them," Bollant said. "We have to cut that off because they do shoot it. We just can't double team (Wooten) and give up open 3s to the kids that can shoot it."
TSU is second-to-last in the conference with points allowed per game. The Tigers are allowing 74.9 points per game, but EIU is only scoring 60.4 points per contest. Usually its been one bad quarter that has done in the Panthers, and in two of the last three games, that bad quarter has come either in the first or second quarter.
"We just have to see if we can eliminate the bad quarters and see if we can put four quarters together," Bollant said. "Getting off to a good start would help."
EIU is also looking for consistency out of its players. When one has a good game, it's followed up by a sub-par showing. Taylor Steele leads the Panthers with 8.8 points per game this season and is averaging 14.3 points per game in OVC play. Jennifer Nehls is averaging 11.5 points in OVC play.
"I think part of it is our youth, but I think you can step up and be mature. One thing is, we aren't consistent," Bollant said. "A player can have one good game and not have it the next. So we need them to step up as individuals and do it as a team."