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January 8, 2014

OVC BASKETBALL: Lady Colonel comeback falls short

RICHMOND — The Lady Colonels couldn’t complete a furious second-half comeback attempt and fell 75-71 to Eastern Illinois Tuesday in Charleston Ill.

EKU (8-6, 2-1 OVC) came out as cold as the temperature outside, shooting only 25 percent in the first half. That and sending the Panthers to the free throw line 12 times — they hit 10 of those — resulted in a 30-22 halftime deficit.

“The first half for us today was bad. I think early on in the game we let some things affect us and we lost our composure a little bit,” EKU coach Chrissy Roberts said in a radio interview. “They attacked us off the bounce and their reward was getting to the free throw line. What it boils down to is we've got to move our feet. When somebody puts the ball on the floor, the first thing we do is take a step toward the ball handler and put two hands on them.”

For the game, EIU shot 37 free throws and hit 31 of them, while the Lady Colonels had only 16 free throw attempts and connected on 11 of those.

After EIU scored the first six points of the second half to open up a 36-22 lead, the Lady Colonels finally began to play up to their ability and went on a 12-2 run of their own to get to within 38-34.

The Panthers answered with a 9-0 run on their way to building a  59-51 lead before the Lady Colonels finally began to get things together.

Thanks in part to some outstanding full-court pressure that resulted in steals, EKU ran off 10-straight points in 1:03 to get to within a point at 59-58 with less than four minutes to go.

EIU pushed the lead back to 64-60 before Shelly Harper cut it to two with a putback of a missed shot with 2:45 remaining.

With EIU up 67-62, Michaela Hunter drained a three pointer to cut it to 67-65 with 1:35 remaining.

The Panthers went up 70-65 on two free throws by Arnisha Thomas with 58.6 seconds to go, but EKU quickly answered with a basket by Marie Carpenter after another Hunter steal. Carpenter closed the gap to 70-69 seconds later after another Hunter steal.

But that was as close as EKU could get, misfiring on a three pointer with 28 seconds remaining with a chance to take the lead. The Panthers hit five free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

Roberts said the difference in the second half was the defense.

“Our pressure defense was effective and allowed us to get back in the game,” Roberts said. “But it just boils down to defensive communication down the stretch and getting some stops on the defensive end when they did break our press.”

Carpenter led the Lady Colonels with 20 points, while Harper finished with 16 points and Pilar Walker was also in double figures with 13 points Hunter finished with seven points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The Lady Colonels did a very good job on the backboards against the taller Panthers, outrebounding EIU 41-38, with 18 of those coming on the offensive end.

The Lady Colonels don’t have a lot of time to regroup before taking on rival Morehead State in the final of the three-game OVC road trip on Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

Roberts said a priority the next three days will be defense against the ball handler.

“We always talk about cutting the floor. We’ll probably work on cutting the floor for about two hours because we’ve got to keep teams off the free throw line. And we’ve got to get where we’ve aggressive and getting to the hole and making some plays,” she said. “We had some opportunities today, but I told them the better team won. We’ve got to go back and get some things figured out and get ready for the next game at Morehead on Saturday.”

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