RICHMOND, Ky. — The Eastern Illinois women's basketball team seemed to be turning a corner even though the Panthers lost to Morehead State on Thursday. EIU scored 55 first-half points and finished with 81 for the game, one of the best offensive outputs on the season. If EIU could come out with even close to that output against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, the Panthers would be in good shape.
But the Panthers offense got off to about as bad of a start as anyone could think of. By the end of the first quarter, EIU only had 4 points and already trailed by 18 points to EKU.
The offense slowly recovered. The Panthers went on an 8-0 run in the second quarter but were still down by double digits. Then in the fourth quarter, EIU scored 21 points, but the closest the Panthers got was 11 points.
EKU's offense, which has struggled throughout the season, did have a 9-point third quarter, but it was the only quarter the Colonels scored under 17 points. EKU shot 44.1 percent compared to 28.1 percent for EIU as the Colonels went on to win 67-51 on Saturday at McBrayer Arena.
It was the 12th straight loss for the Panthers, who fell to 1-14 overall and 0-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. EKU improves to 5-8 overall and 2-2 in the OVC.
EIU coach Matt Bollant said the early hole was too much to dig out of.
"We just don't have enough margin for error to have bad quarters. Every game, we have one bad quarter, and it's even more painful when it's the first quarter," Bollant said. "Part of it was (EKU) did a good job guarding and they took away some stuff. We were a little impatient. We drove, hoping for a foul and they didn't call one. We were bad offensively in the first quarter. We didn't make shots, and part of that was impatience."
EIU only shot six percent from the field in the first quarter. In the second, Halle Stull gave the offense a bit of a spark off the bench. She hit back-to-back 3-pointers during an 8-0 run to cut into EKU's 28-point lead. Stull finished with 16 points and she hit four 3-pointers.
"We really struggled to score and she came in and hit back-to-back 3s and got us back into it," Bollant said. "We are starting three freshmen and two sophomores, and you need the junior to give you a lift and she did that."
EIU outscored EKU 13-9 in the third quarter and cut the lead down to 11 points late in the fourth quarter, but the lead never dipped below double digits for EKU.
"That's one thing I am proud of them. They could've hung their heads and not fought, and we cut it to 11," Bollant said. "We had some chances to cut it down and the girls battled."
The loss closed out a four-game road trip for the Panthers as they return home to face Tennessee State at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.
"We are excited to be back home. It's a young team and it's hard to start on the road. That was the schedule we had, so now we get back home and hopefully play well on our home court," Bollant said. "We would love to see our fans there to support us. We need them."