CARBONDALE — On Friday afternoon, the Eastern Illinois women's basketball team won their first game on the road since the 2016-2017 season. The Panthers beat cross-state rival Western Illinois 64-62 in the first annual Compass Challenge hosted by Southern Illinois. This win also marks head coach Matt Bollant's 350th career win.
EIU improves to 4-3 on the year and will play Southern Illinois tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. for their final game of the tournament. WIU falls to 3-7 overall.
The Panthers led from the start of the game as they jumped out to a 14-8 lead into the second quarter. Both teams struggled to take care of the ball in the first ten minutes combining for 19 first-quarter turnovers. EIU finished with a season-high 32 turnovers allowing 21 points off turnovers for WIU. The Leathernecks tallied 22 turnovers leading to 18 points for the Panthers.
WIU struggled from the field in the first half, only shooting 25 percent to EIU's 45.5 percent. The Leathernecks offense came alive in the fourth quarter as they fought their way back into the game tying it with thirty seconds left to play. WIU outscored EIU 22-13 in the final 10 minutes. With both teams in the bonus in the fourth quarter, Karle Pace, Taylor Steele and Grace Lennox were able to hit clutch free throws securing an EIU win.
EIU dominated the boards 45-26 over WIU. Grace McRae grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds while Jennifer Nehls finished with seven. McRae also tallied a career-high five assists.
Pace finished with a team-high 17 points. She also tallied two rebounds, two assists, and three steals. Steele was 4-for-4 from the free throw line and finished with 11 points and four boards. Grace Lennox filled the stat sheet for EIU finishing with 9 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
WIU had two players finish in double figures. Danni Nichols scored a game-high 20 points off the bench for the Leathernecks, while Taylor Higginbotham added 11 points and eight boards.