Panthers pull away from Saint Francis in exhibition game


Kevin Hall

Trae Anderson, a junior forward attempts a lay-up in the exhibition game against St. Francis, Monday in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won 85-54.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Despite an 85-54 exhibition game victory over Saint Francis (Ill.), Eastern basketball coach Jay Spoonhour said that he wanted his team to get the ball to junior forward Chris Olivier more.

“He’s our best threat in the paint,” Spoonhour said. “We started settling too much on jump shots in the second half, when we probably should’ve gone inside more.”

Olivier finished the game with 14 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double in Eastern’s win Monday night at Lantz Arena.

Olivier said that he is ready to play and expect more this season.

“Coach got on me last week about going through the motions, and he said we can be good with me or good without me, so now hopefully we can be better with me,” Olivier said. “Last year was my first year and I used that for learning and now I’m ready.”

Olivier transferred from Northern Iowa last season.

As for the perimeter offense, Spoonhour said that the quickness and ball handling of Reggie Smith, Dylan Chatman and Cornell Johnston pressured the Saints’ defense into wearing down as the game went on.

The Panthers were only 8-of-25 from 3-point range.

“We settled on too many threes,” Spoonhour said. “But we did start to take the ball at the end of the game and started getting fouled because that’s what this team is going to do.”

Smith accounted for three of those three pointers, as the senior attempted seven in the game.

“I feel I didn’t rush anything (threes) as I usually would,” Smith said. “I’m just growing, knowing what’s a good shot, and what’s not a good shot. We’ve got so many weapons now, so I don’t have to worry about bringing the ball up anymore.”

Smith finished with 17 points to lead the Panthers, and also had three rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The Saints were 10-of-26 from 3-point range, with four coming from Edvinas Presniakovas, who finished with 12 points.

“We knew they would have a very good offense and they did,” Spoonhour said. “We knew if we would’ve left them open, they would make it.”

Defensively, Spoonhour was concerned about the Panthers’ transition defense because they could not find guys in transition. He was not the only one concerned about defense. Olivier said that the rules for guarding in the paint are very confusing.

“The new rules in the paint are crazy,” Olivier said. “They told me you can’t put your hand on them or anything. I thought I was going to get a couple of fouls for sure.”

Olivier finished with zero fouls.

Smith said that despite it being an exhibition, the win was a great start for Eastern.

“I know we’ve got a lot of work to do, but this was a fresh and great start for us,” he said. “We’ve got a new team and more offensive and defensive weapons.”

Eastern starts its regular season at 7:05 p.m. Friday in Springfield, Mo., against Missouri State.

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].