The women’s team, which is still looking for its first conference win, will play two home games this weekend.
William Peace visits at 7 p.m. Friday at Mariotti Gym, while Averett is the opponent for a 4 p.m. Saturday contest.
Peace comes into the game with an overall record of 4-6, including a 1-3 record in the conference.
Averett is 3-8 overall and sports a 2-2 conference record.
Meanwhile on the men’s side, things couldn’t be more difficult.
After dropping their last three games, including back-to-back conference games, the Panthers look to return to their winning ways on Saturday when they make the long trip to Newport News, Va. to play the Christopher Newport Captains.
Not only will the trip be long, but the task daunting as Christopher Newport sports an 11-1 record and an unblemished 4-0 conference record, including a six-game win streak.
Then on Sunday, the Panthers head to North Carolina-Wesleyan to take on the Battling Bishops who are 7-5 on the season, but have fallen into a slump losing its last five games.
North Carolina-Wesleyan is 0-3 in conference games.
After starting off 7-1 on the season, the Panthers traveled to Tampa, Fla. to play in the Tampa Bay Shootout over the holidays.
They won their first game against Westminster 101-79, but dropped their second game to a tough DePauw team by 20 points, 83-63.
Then came two more losses at home to Ferrum and Averett, both conference foes.
Now coach Kendal Wallace’s team faces the No. 13 team in the nation in Christopher Newport.
“We are kind of in recovery mode right now,” Wallace said of his team’s three-game skid. “It’s a long road trip for us. Christopher Newport is a very skilled ball club. My assistant coach and I were talking and jokingly said, ‘they play basketball the way we want to play.’ They’re very up-tempo, good skilled players, they work well together.”
After Saturday’s tough game, the Panthers face the Bishops and the top scorer in the conference, 6-foot-6 forward Brandon Givens, who averages nearly 27 points, 11 rebounds and shoots 47 percent from the field per game.
“They certainly have a couple of guys who compliment him (Givens) well,” Wallace said.
Wallace said the team has been working hard to regain its early-season form.
“When we’re at our best and we’re at our peak, I think we can play with anybody,” Wallace said “We’ve had a couple of things happen and these losses have hurt our confidence. It’s going to be a matter of who wants it the most. I’d like to see how hungry our guys are this weekend.”
Shooting accuracy and rebounding have been an issue for the Panthers.
Against Averett, LaGrange was outrebounded 54-32 and the Panthers shot 40 percent from the field compared to 46 for Averett as the Panthers were outscored in overtime 18-5.
Against Ferrum, the numbers for the Panthers were even worse, as they shot 33 percent for the game compared to Ferrum’s 45 percent.
LaGrange was outrebounded 46-34.
One of the biggest differences in the game was Ferrum’s bench that outscored LaGrange’s bench 22-13.
Besides their scoring woes, the Panthers have also had some problems boxing out to prevent second-chance points by opponents, and they’ve had a hard time scoring second-chance points of their own.
“We need to work better as a team and do the simple things of the game, like rebounding and not turning the ball over and continue to play the hard defense our program is based on,” Wallace noted. “My guys are certainly doing that now. We’re just having a little bit of trouble scoring right now and sharing the basketball a little bit more will help facilitate those points and of course rebounding helps.”
The LaGrang College women’s team, meanwhile, is coming off a pair of losses last weekend.
On Friday, the Panthers took a tough overtime loss against Ferrum 92-88.
On Saturday, the Panthers lost to rival Maryville 75-72.
LaGrange College coach Mark Isenhour hopes things will turn around this weekend against a pair of teams that have a combined record of 7-14.
“The games this weekend will be good for us,” Isenhour said. “People who have been coming lately are used to us steamrolling people and have kind of been scratching their heads as to why we’re going to overtime and losing at the buzzer. I think it’s indicative of our new league.”
Isenhour said of the team’s six losses, four have come against teams in the top 25 and the two teams the Panthers lost to last week had records of 12-1 and 11-0 coming in.
“I think we’re getting better and learning late-game situations,” Isenhour said. “I think it’s an invaluable thing to play late-game situations. You can practice them all you want, but it’s just not the same.”
Still, Isenhour is not taking either Peace or Meredith lightly.
“Again, they’re conference games. You never really know what’s going to happen in the conference,” he said.
Isenhour says the Panthers are in a position where they need to rely on some other plays besides the team’s stars, including Katie Covington and Heather Miller.
“We’re at a point right now that the past couple of games we’ve had to get big minutes and big distribution from players we haven’t seen as consistently doing that,” Isenhour remarked. “I think that’s a really big step in our development. Everybody always knows Heather and Katie. People are double-teaming both of them on the catch. So it’s leaving other people open. Earlier in the year, people were just playing them straight up.”
One of the players who benefited from the attention on Miller and Covington is Madison McDonald, who scored 27 points against Maryville.
“I think that the uniqueness of our system is that yes, we’ve got two really special players, but they can also be smoke and mirrors at times to other people who can be very capable scorers,” Isenhour said.