MARTIN, Tenn. — The Eastern Illinois women’s basketball team has had its fair share of trouble at the Elam Center, the home of the UT Martin.
The Panthers came into the game with an eight-game losing streak at the Elam Center, and four of those losses were by 19 points or more. Last season EIU almost ended the streak, at the Elam Center but UT Martin took the lead late and pull out a two-point win.
On Saturday, it was much more of the same for the Panthers at the Elam Center. Four of those blowout losses were in the last five seasons, and EIU made it a blowout loss in five of the lasts six.
UT Martin went on a 17-0 run that spanned from the first to the second quarter. The Skyhawks never lost control of the game as EIU dropped its ninth straight at the Elam Center, this time with an 85-57 defeat.
It was the 11th straight loss for EIU (2-25, 1-15).
“I don’t know that we really believed that we could come and do it,” EIU coach Matt Bollant said. “We didn’t have that look on our face that we are going to do this. To beat a good team, I told them they can’t just show up today and make the normal. This is a good team, they are on a roll, it’s their senior night, they are going to play well. We have to step up and throw the first punch, and we didn’t really do that.”
It’s not the worst loss at the Elam Center during the nine-game losing streak. The Panthers lost by 39 points two seasons ago and by 30 three seasons ago.
EIU was eliminated from the Ohio Valley Conference tournament after a loss to Southeast Missouri State on Wednesday and have been at the bottom of the standings for a while, but Bollant thought the team was playing better of late and with more fire.
That wasn’t the same team Bollant saw on Saturday and the Panthers still have two more games left - on Thursday against Murray State and on Saturday against SIU Edwardsville, both home games - to close out the season.
“Our job is to get them ready to play, and they’ve done a good job for a while,” Bollant said. “For whatever reason, we weren’t ready today and we didn’t play our best. I thought we had a good stretch of playing fairly well, but today we didn’t.
“I’m excited to be back home and to see the girls grow.”
Taylor Steele led EIU with 14 points and had six rebounds, Karle Pace had 13 points and six assists and Grace McRae had 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Skyhawks took a 7-2 lead when Carmen Tellez hit a 3-pointer, Karle Pace added a runner and Halle Stull made a layup as EIU came back and tie the game at 9-9 with 3:09 left in the quarter.
Then UTM ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run for a 16-9 lead going into the second quarter. The run continued into the second quarter as EIU went 6 minutes without a bucket. UTM went on a 10-0 run to go up 26-9 with 7:45 left in the half.
The Skyhawks went into halftime with a 37-19 lead.
UT Martin started the third quarter with an 11-0 run as Kendall Spray hit three 3-pointers for a 48-19 lead. The Skyhawks went into the fourth quarter with a 62-32 lead.
EIU did score 25 points in the fourth quarter and shot 42.1 percent in the period, but UT Martin had complete control of the game and went on to win 85-57.
“I just tried to find something. As a coach, you are desperate to find something you can be positive about, so I said let’s try and win the fourth quarter,” Bollant said. “Our freshmen stepped up. (Grace McRae) was good, Taylor was good and Karle was good. I was proud of our freshmen.”