Charleston, Ill. - The San Jose State women's basketball team wrapped up a two-game Midwest road trip against the Eastern Illinois University Panthers, falling 88-67 on Monday afternoon.
The game was played in front of a raucous crowd of more than 2,500 school kids who were provided free tickets. They cheered and screamed from the opening tip until the final seconds ticked off.
"It was a great crowd today," head coach Tim La Kose said. "I think all schools should have a game like that. I only wish we would have played better."
San Jose State (2-2) committed 23 turnovers, which the Panthers turned into 26 points. The Spartans forced 15 EIU miscues, but managed to get just nine points from them.
"Turnovers were the big difference in the game," La Kose said. "We usually have those in our favor, but today, for the first time this year, they were in (our opponents) favor."
The Spartans were also outrebounded 49-to-36, including 19-to-11 on the offensive glass. That difference ended in a 20-to-6 advantage in second chance points for Eastern Illinois.
"We turned the ball over and didn't rebound," La Kose said. "That's a bad combination."
Ta'Rea Cunnigan, named the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week earlier in the day, led all scorers with 21 points, added seven rebounds and six assists.
Chereese Thomas scored a season-best 15 points, including three from behind the 3-point line, and Alexis Hill had 10.
Eastern Illinois (1-2) had six players in double figures led by Jordyne Crunk's 17 points off the bench.
The two teams played back and forth for the first 10-plus minutes of the game. After a Cunnigan 3-pointer cut an EIU six-point lead to three, with 9:31 to go, the Panthers went on a three-minute 13-to-5 run to open an 11-point advantage.
With 3:14 to play in the half, a Hill jumper cut the Eastern Illinois lead to five, 34-29, but the Spartans could get no closer going to the locker room down 40-32.
In the second half, the Spartans got the Panthers lead down to seven points, 55-48 with 12:37 to go, but a 3-pointer going the other way pushed the lead back to double digits.
EIU was up by as many as 24 points in the second half before winning by 21.
"At times we were playing well," La Kose said, "we just have to continue to improve, individually and as a team. We'll learn from the experience of this road trip. We'll take away what we did well, build on it and clean up the things we struggled with.
The Spartans take a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, but return to action on Sunday, November 25 at the University of San Diego. The tipoff is set for 2:00 p.m. in the Jenny Craig Pavilion.