After beating Evansville 79-52 on Saturday, the Eastern Illinois women's basketball team travels to Philadelphia for one of, if not the toughest game it has this season. Then the Panthers have to get back on the court the next day to face another talented team.
This is the task in front of the Panthers as they travel to Philadelphia for the Saint Joseph's Thanksgiving Tournament. EIU faces the host, Saint Joseph's, at 1 p.m. on Saturday and then faces either Delaware or Saint Peter's at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
The tournament gives the Panthers a couple of different looks they haven't seen this season.
"The good thing is you get different styles," EIU coach Matt Bollant said. "St. Joe plays man and is physical inside. Saint Peter's will play zone. We have a chance to play against different things and it prepares you for the conference and to get ready for things down the road."
Saint Joseph's is 3-0 going into its own tournament. The Hawks picked up wins against Niagara, Bucknell and James Madison. Saint Joseph's has four players scoring in double-figures. Sarah Veilleux leads the team with 16.3 points per game, Chelsea Woods is averaging 15.7 points per game, and Alyssa Monaghan has hit 10 3-pointers and is scoring 12.7 points per game to go along with six assists. Adashia Franklyn is averaging 11.3 points and eight rebounds per game. The Hawks shoot 53.1 percent from the field and 59.3 percent from 3-point range.
"They are by far the best team in the tournament and better than any team we've seen," Bollant said. "They are really good. They have three great guards and three great post players. They have a total of 10 juniors and seniors on their roster."
Delaware and Saint Peter's are both 2-2 on the season. Nicole Enabosi leads Delaware with 21 points and 12 rebounds per game. Talah Hughes averages 10.3 points per game for Saint Peter's.
EIU is coming off a 27-point win against Evansville. Grace Lennox leads EIU with 13 points per game and is averaging six assists a game. Danielle Berry scored a career-high 12 points against Evansville and is averaging 8 points per game to go along with five rebounds per contest. Jalisha Smith leads EIU with 5.7 rebounds per game.
Bollant wants to see the team build on the confidence from the Evansville game, no matter the outcome in these two games.
"We needed that, to start making shots in the second half," Bollant said. "I told the girls, 'Now can you play with confidence even against a team like St. Joe's.' We need to find a way to play well against really good teams and build our confidence for the Ohio Valley Conference games down the road."
It won't all be about the two games for the Panthers either in Philadelphia. The team arrived in the City of Brotherly Love on Friday and has taken in a few of the sights.
"I am excited to travel with our team and to be around them for Thanksgiving," Bollant said. "We are hoping to take in an NBA game on Saturday night, and some of the players have never been to an NBA game. We watched Rocky and we will visit the statue and visit an art museum. It's going to be fun."