CHARLESTON — The first time the Eastern Illinois women’s basketball team faced Austin Peay this season, the Panthers got off to a decent start. But toward the end of the first quarter, everything started to slow down offensively as the Panthers struggled to score.
That problem carried over to the second quarter, and Austin Peay outscored EIU 21-6 to take a commanding lead.
EIU did recover and scored 22 points in the third quarter and got the Governors lead under double digits at one point. But the hole was too big to overcome and the Governors won 69-59.
At that time, the Panthers were dealing with a bad quarter each game. Since then, EIU coach Matt Bollant said the Panthers have cut down on those bad quarters and feels the team is playing more consistent as Austin Peay faces EIU for the second time for a 1 p.m. tip on Saturday at Lantz Arena.
“The one quarter put us in a hole. I thought (on Wednesday against SIU Edwardsville), we played a full four quarters,” Bollant said. “We defended for four quarters, and the offense was there for four quarters and we played decent against a team on the road. We just need to continue to e consistent for four quarters.
“We are excited to be back home and we’ve been playing better. We are striving to get better. I would be easy to hang our heads with the number of wins that we have but the girls haven’t.”
EIU is 2-22 on the season and last in the OVC with a 1-12 record. Austin Peay is tied for sixth in the OVC with a 6-7 record and is 13-11 overall.
Austin Peay isn’t exactly the same team that played EIU earlier in the season, either. Bollant said they are not pressing as much as they were early in the season.
“I think they are physically talented. They pressed early in the conference season, and it’s hard to press late in conference play,” Bollant said. “They relied on that early and I am not sure how much they are doing that now. I would expect teams to handle it better for them them not to get as many turnovers off the press.”
In the first game, Austin Peay outrebounded EIU 43 to 31 and the Governors had 18 second-chance points, but Austin Peay is only eighth in the OVC in rebounding margin at a negative-2.2 per game.
So EIU has to rebound better the second time around. Bollant thinks the team is rebounding better since that game because the players have a bit more energy lately.
“I thought we played with a lot of energy and a lot of fight (on Thursday against SIUE). We just have to play with that energy and fight, and I think we found something as a staff,” Bollant said. “We are rotating kids more and getting them more breaks. They are young and probably not physically able to play 35 minutes. Halle (Stull) played well in the first half and Jenn (Nehls) had a good second half.
“It’s good for Karle (Pace) and Taylor (Steele) to have breaks and we have to balance our minutes.”
Brianne Alexander leads Austin Peay with 11.2 points per game and she is averaging 13.3 points a game in OVC play. Falon Baker is averaging 10.1 points per game.
For EIU, Steele is averaging 11.6 points per game in OVC play. The first time the two teams played, Pace only had two points and the freshman was still getting used to ample court time. She’s figured it out since. She’s averaging 11.9 points per game in OVC play and has 18 3-pointers.
“She’s leading us in conference play in scoring,” Bollant said. “She’s just doing a little bit of everything for us and stepping up and making plays. She’s playing well defensively, which isn’t easy for a freshman.”