Eastern Illinois women's basketball coach Matt Bollant wasn't happy with how the Panthers opened their last game against Bradley. The Braves jumped out to a 13-0 lead and EIU couldn't dig out of the early hole in a 67-52 loss.
What Bollant was happy with was how senior forward Jalisha Smith, who came off the bench, played. Smith played 16 minutes and finished with six points, six rebounds and three steals. Bollant thought Smith played with good energy and plans to start Smith for Friday's game at Fort Wayne.
Smith leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game and is averaging 5.0 points a contest.
"We are hoping to be able to start the game better," Bollant said. "We will start J and see how she does. We can really use her rebounding and scoring. She played aggressively the other day and we will see if we can start better with her on the court. I am just excited for another opportunity. We were disappointed with the start against Bradley and we have another chance to get off to a good start against Fort Wayne."
EIU is 1-6 on the season and travels to Fort Wayne, which is 2-6, for a 5 p.m. game on Friday.
The Panthers struggled offensively throughout the game against Bradley. EIU shot only 27 percent (20-of-74) and were 8-of-32 (25 percent) from behind the arc. The Panthers only attempted nine free throws in the game.
For the season, EIU is only averaging 58.3 points per game and are shooting 33.7 percent from the field, including 27.2 percent from three-point range, and only 58.8 percent from the free throw line.
Bollant wants his team to be more patient offensively.
"We talked a lot about our approach and we weren't very patient against Bradley," Bollant said. "We shot off the first or second pass and shot a lot of quick shots against Bradley. When you aren't shooting a good percentage, you shouldn't shoot quick shots. We worked on making more passes before we take our shot and we have to get it in the paint more."
Grace Lennox leads EIU with 14.6 points and 4.4 assists per game. Lennox has scored 974 points in her career, leaving her only 26 points short of 1,000. She will be the 24th EIU player to reach the 1,000-point milestone in the program's history.
Fort Wayne hasn't been much better offensively. The Mastodons are only averaging 57.2 points per game and are shooting only 38.6 percent from the field, including 31.9 percent from behind the arc. Fort Wayne only has 10 assists per game compared with 16.4 turnovers a game.
Bollant said the team will mix up defensively against Fort Wayne.
"We will switch up with our matchup zone, our buzz defense and our man-to-man and just be smart in all three," Bollant said. "It's not easy to play all three, but we are getting better with all three and the change of pace is helping. We can figure out during the game what will work."
Fort Wayne doesn't have a player averaging double-figures in points. Jaelencia Williams averages 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Anna Lappenkuper had 19 points in a loss to Xavier recently and had 10 points in a loss to Coastal Carolina. She is averaging 9.4 points per game.
"We just need to be ready to mix up defenses. They have a good post player and a couple of girls that can shoot, so just know the personnel and matching their strengths," Bollant siad. "The buzz, it's a half-court defense and it looked good against Bradley and the kids like playing it. Hopefully we can continue to grow in all three of our defenses."