NASHVILLE — The Eastern Illinois women's basketball team did two of the things it absolutely couldn't do against Tennessee State in the first half of Saturday's game. First, the EIU women allowed Kaliya Griffin to make four 3-pointers, which helped the Tigers score 45 points in the first half.
In the first game against TSU, the Panthers turned the ball over 31 times. In the second meeting, EIU turned the ball over 20 times and 12 of those came in the first half. TSU scored 11 points off Panther turnovers, which also helped the Tigers to an 8-point lead going into halftime.
Then EIU couldn't slow down TSU's offense in the second half as the Tigers shot 50 percent in the third quarter and 41.7 percent in the fourth quarter as they pulled away for an 86-68 win over the Panthers.
EIU (2-19, 1-9) suffered the loss even though freshman Karle Pace scored a career-high 31 points. She had 21 points in the first half and finished the game 11-of-18 from the field. She hit three 3-pointers and was 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.
Pace is from Clarksville, Tennessee, and had plenty of family members in attendance on Saturday for her career-game. It is the second-highest point total by a freshman in EIU women's basketball history.
"When we recruited her, her coach told me she has the clutch gene. She had a ton of people there, and she stepped up and played great," EIU coach Matt Bollant said. "I said to the team, 'Look how much she's grown in six months,' and I told them anybody can change...I am really proud of Karle. I thought she stepped up and played well. I was happy with that.
"(Grace McRae) played a little better tonight and gave up some spurts. I am going to give them Sunday and Monday off to give them a mental break and see if we can change things to get better."
Danielle Berry added 10 points, a team-high seven rebounds and three steals.
EIU was down 21-16 in the first quarter and only gave up one 3-pointer. But the Panthers did have seven turnovers. In the game, Jalisha Smith had four turnovers in 8 minutes of action, including three in her first 3 minutes. Jennifer Nehls had some key turnovers in the first half, too.
"(Jalisha) had three turnovers in 3 minutes. You can't come off the bench and turn it over like that," Bollant said. "Those two aren't handling the ball that much to do that."
TSU (4-15, 2-8) started to connect from behind the arc in the second quarter. The Tigers were 5-of-7 from 3-point range, and Griffin had three of the 3-pointers. Griffin finished with 15 points in the game and 12 came from behind the arc. She had 12 points in the first half.
"That was huge. We played some zone and it's all we talked about: find her and make her dribble," Bollant said. "We needed to know where she was at and for her to get four attempts was frustrating. We did a good job against Belmont on staying on the shooters and then didn't do a good job against her in the first half."
The Tigers went into the halftime with a 45-37 lead and then extended the lead in the third quarter by scoring 24 points. EIU only had 11 points in the third quarter, so the Panthers found themselves down big at 69-48.
"I think we were going to score enough to give ourselves a shot, but they scored 24 points in the third quarter," Bollant said. "Give credit to TSU, they played with a lot of energy and emotion."
TSU went on to score 17 points in the fourth quarter to get the 86-68 win. The victory gets TSU out of a three-way tie for last in the OVC, which leaves EIU tied for last with Tennessee Tech.
EIU hosts Jacksonville State on Thursday and hosts Tech on next Saturday.