By MARLON SCOTT | Senior Staff Writer
The Lady Govs played the Eastern Illinois Panthers to start off the quarterfinals of the 2011 OVC Womens Basketball Championship Tournament in Nashville at noon Thursday, March 3. The Panthers defeated the Lady Govs twice in the regular season. However, the Lady Govs defeated the Panthers in the finals of the tournament the last two years to earn their titles. The Lady Govs made it three eliminations in a row. They defeated the Panthers 78-72, and advanced to the OVC Tournament semifinals.
The Lady Govs will play top seeded Tennessee Tech at noon Friday, March 4.
For the second game in a row, the Lady Govs lost a solid lead in the second half and had to battle from behind in the last few minutes to get the win.
Seniors Brooke Faulkner and Dalila Thomas along with junior center Jasmine Rayner had a big day on the court against the Panthers.
“Today, I think there was a little fire in our eyes,” Faulkner said. “We always play well in tournament time and there was no difference tonight. I told my teammates with four minutes to go that we are not going to lose this game.”
Faulkner was one of seven different Lady Govs to score in the game. She scored 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Rayner led the team with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Thomas scored 14, rebounded 8 and blocked 4 shots.
Panther’s sophomore guard Ta’Kenya Nixon led all scorers with 27 points. Nixon led the Panther’s second half charge that eliminated a Lady Gov 6-point lead at halftime. With less than 11 minutes left in the game, the Panthers had taken control and led by eight points, 61-53.
“In that second half, EIU came out, they made big plays. Later in the half it was a tug of war. It went back and forth,” said head coach Carrie Daniels. “At the four-minute mark when some crucial things happened with the fouls, the shot that Brooke [Faulkner] made, the momentum kind of shifted in our favor. At that point I could see in our player’s eyes that we were not going to give this up.”
Senior guard Darcie Warner and sophomore forward Meghan Bussabarger came off the bench and sparked a Lady Gov run that had the two teams tied at 68 with four minutes remaining in the game.
During the run, the Lady Govs made seven-straight rebounds on both ends which kept the Panthers off the score board and gave the Lady Govs the opportunity to capitalize on second chance points.
The two teams battled to another tie at 70. Warner made a short jump shot off an assist from Rayner to give the Lady Govs the 72-70 lead with less than two minutes left in the game.
On the ensuing Panther’s possession Thomas blocked the Panther’s shot and the Lady Govs recovered the ball. As the clock wound down to one minute Rayner missed a short jumper, but Thomas made the clutch rebound to ensure another Lady Govs offensive possession.
Faulkner took advantage of the possession and made a short jump shot to expand the Lady Govs lead. Rayner and Thomas continued to dominate on the boards and the Lady Govs sealed another game from the free throw line.
“I have yet to know what it feels like to lose in the conference tournament, and I am definitely not trying to find out my senior year,” Thomas said.
LADY GOVS VS. PANTHERS LIVE UPDATES
Final- Lady Govs defeat Panthers 78-72
Update-0:23 second half
Rayner at the free throw line, hits both, Lady Govs lead 76-70
Update- 0:42 second half
Faulkner hits the jumper to give Lady Govs 74-70 lead.
Update-2:29 second half
Lady Govs take a 70-68 lead
Update-3:59 second half
Lady Govs behind 68-66, Meghan Bussabarger going to free throw line with a chance to tie. She converts, game tied at 68
Update-7:37 second half
Panthers can’t pull away from Lady Govs. Lady Making a move, on 5-1 run, down by four, 62-58
Update-11:45 second half
Lady Govs lingering, but can’t close the gap. Panthers lead 55-51.
Update-13:55 second half
Panthers continue to surge, take 51-49 lead
Update-18:28 second half
Panthers come out with a 6-0 run. Behind Lady Govs 42-40.
Lady Govs finish first half with 14-5 run to take a 42-34 halftime lead.
Update-1:53 first half
Faukner hits another 3-pointer to initiate a Lady Govs 10-5 run. They lead 38-34.
Update-7:30 first half
Panthers holding lead in first half physical battle, 28-24
Update-12:02 first half
Rayner makes 1-of-2 at free throw line, Lady Govs lead 17-16
Update-15:21 first half
Lady Govs are hot from 3-point range. Freshman guard Nicole Olzewski makes the fourth for the team in the first five minutes, Lady Govs lead 16-8
Panthers win the tip off, but turn the ball over. Lady Govs answer with a 3-pointer from senior guard Brooke Faulkner.