The Eastern Kentucky University women’s basketball team continued its struggles in conference play on Thursday, falling to Eastern Illinois University, 83-63, at McBrayer Arena.
The loss marks the fifth-straight for the Colonels (6-8, 0-3 OVC) and the 25th straight to an Ohio Valley Conference team.
The Colonels fell behind early and could not overcome a strong shooting Panthers team.
Eastern Illinois (8-6, 2-1 OVC) shot 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from the field in the first half and was 4-of-7 from three-point range.
The Colonels took a two-point lead in the first quarter with 6:01 remaining after Samari Mowbray nailed a three=pointer off an assist from Bria Bass.
However, the Panthers answered with a barrage of three-pointers in the final minute of the quarter to take a 13-point lead.
Four of the Panthers final seven field goals of the quarter came from long range. Morgan Litwiller’s three with three seconds on the clock put the visitors on top 27-14 going into the second quarter.
After that, EKU fell apart and only scored nine points in the second quarter as EIU ran out to a 41-19 lead thanks to a 9-0 run.
Mowbray grabbed a layup with seven seconds left in the second quarter, but EKU trailed the Panthers 46-23 at halftime.
“Our defense left us. Our defense has been our staple, for the most part, all year. For whatever reason, we were not focused and dialed in on basic pass-to-lane. We couldn’t even cover that. It was disappointing,” EKU coach Samantha Williams said of the Colonels start to the game.
The Colonels were 7-for-28 (25 percent) from the field, and just 4-of-17 (24 percent) from behind the arc in the first half. Eastern Illinois turned eight EKU turnovers into a 17-3 advantage in points off turnovers.
“The turnovers today were so awful. It was just mental. We would turn it over off our leg or throw it out of bounds. We weren’t focused and it showed,” Williams said.
EKU picked it up in the third quarter as the Panthers shooting stalled.
The Colonels were able to cut EIU’s lead to 18 thanks to an 8-0 run late in the third quarter.
One free throw each from I’liyah Green and Mowbray cut the deficit to 65-47. The Colonels closed the gap to 18 twice more early in the fourth quarter on three-pointers from Catie Kaifes and D’ayra Davis.
A pair of free throws from Qay Stanton got the EKU within 16, 71-55, with 7:58 remaining in the game. However, the Colonels never got any closer as the Panthers went on another 11-0 run to make it 81-55 with 3:31 to go.
“In this game you have to have a short memory and a next-play mentality. They are catching it with confidence ready to shoot and we have to work on that. We will get back to practice and try to make this happen,” Williams said.
Stanton scored a career-high 16 points and was 5-for-9 from the field with four assists, three rebounds and two steals. Green finished with a career-best 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points.
Karle Pace scored a game-high 25 points for Eastern Illinois to go along with five steals and four rebounds. She made 7-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and knocked down 8-of-10 at the free throw line. Lariah Washington added 15 points.
Eastern Illinois shot 40 percent for the game from the field and had turned EKU’s 19 turnovers into 28 points.
The Panther out-rebounded 52-41 and grabbed 13 steals.
EKU shot 31.7 percent for the game and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
The Colonels will look to pick up their first OVC win against SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.