CLEVELAND, Oh. -- The Eastern Illinois women’s basketball team had a better offensive performance against Cleveland State than it did in its last game from Delaware, almost right from the start.
The Panthers put up 23 points in the first quarter and EIU shot 46.7 percent in the game.
But a rough second quarter defensively helped give Cleveland State the lead at the half. EIU put together a couple of runs in the second half, but the Vikings held off the Panthers and picked up a 77-69 win.
“I think it was a step in the right direction. We grew tonight and continue to grow and things will happen down the road,” EIU coach Matt Bollant said. “I am proud of how we played and our approach. We are excited to be back in Lantz Arena for three of our next four games and we have played well there.”
EIU falls to 1-5 and Cleveland State improves to 4-2.
Grace Lennox led EIU with 24 points and five assists. Jennifer Nehls had 12 points and Taylor Steele and Jalisha Smith each had nine points off the bench.
“Jalisha had a really good game. She did a good job of going to the glass,” Bollant said. “She really gave us a lift with Danielle Berry sick and so did Taylor.”
The game was tied at 16 late in the first quarter when EIU went on a 7-3 run to take a 23-19 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Panthers continued the run early in the second quarter and built a nine-point lead at 28-19 with 8:26 left in the half.
But Cleveland State’s offense started to heat up and the Vikings went on an 11-2 run to tie the game with 5:24 left in the half. The Vikings continued their run and took a 36-30 lead when Jennifer Nehls scored to give EIU its first points in about 3:30 minutes.
Cleveland State offense continued to roll for the rest of the quarter and went into halftime with a 44-37 lead.
“We definitely did not defend in the second quarter the way we are capable of,” Bollant said. “We had a couple of possessions where we didn’t guard. The second quarter was the turning point of the game.”
EIU’s defense came out strong in the second half, forcing a shot clock violation and drawing a charge. The Panthers went on a 6-0 run to cut it to a one-point game at 44-43.
“At the half, I told them we lost our sense of urgency, now let’s get it back,” Bollant said. “We mixed up our defense and it gave us a lift. We didn’t want to let them get comfortable.”
EIU stayed within reach at 50-48, but a 6-2 run put Cleveland State up 56-50 and the home team went into the fourth quarter with a 58-52 lead.
The Vikings offense went on an 8-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, including six straight points by Olivia Voskuhl, and Cleveland State went up 66-52.
The Panthers went on a 7-0 run to get the deficit under double-digits against to make it 66-59 when the Vikings got an offensive rebound and went up 68-59 with 4:38 left.
EIU made it 68-62 after a 3-pointer, but then didn’t score again for almost 3 minutes. That allowed the Vikings to keep the lead as they went on to win 77-69.
“I thought our approach was a whole lot better than the last game,” Bollant said. “Grace was special tonight. Taylor stepped up with some threes in the second half. Played better, didn’t make enough plays at the end to get it done.”