After losing five of seven games, the Eastern men’s basketball team will need to redeem itself quickly in order get out of the last place spot in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Eastern recorded convincing wins against NAIA Eureka College on Nov. 17 and most recently Southern University on Saturday. An 81-51 victory over Eureka was the only one of two games at home so far and the only time the Panthers managed to score more than 61 points.
The Panthers are averaging 55.9 points per game after a difficult non-conference schedule that has led to an unpleasant start to the season. Last year they averaged 67.7 points after a going 11-19 for the season. Eastern ranks last out of 12 teams in the OVC in points scored.
Junior forward Trae Anderson leads the team averaging 10.6 points per game and 4.1 rebounds. Through the rough stretch of games, Anderson has a team-high 26 free throw attempts and making 18. Eastern is shooting just above 60 percent from the free throw line as a team.
Despite freshman guard Cornell Johnston and his team leading 3.9 assists per game, the Panthers are averaging 11.3, which is only good enough for 11th place in the OVC. Eastern is also one of the worst teams in the conference at holding on to the ball right now, averaging 12.1 turnovers.
Though the Panthers are struggling, it seems to be mainly on the offensive end of the floor. While scoring less than 60 points per game, Eastern is holding its opponents under that mark as well. The Panthers are also a top-three team in the OVC for opponent’s field goal percentage, holding teams to just 41 percent.
The Panthers are averaging a little less than four blocks on the season. Junior center Luke Piatrowski is averaging the seventh most blocks in the conference with 1.3.
While Eastern ranks last in the OVC, it is only based on record. The Panthers will face five more non-conference opponents until January. The Panthers begin conference play by hosting Tennessee Tech on New Years day in Lantz arena.
Eastern spent its last four games on the road during the Thanksgiving break playing in the Emerald Coast Classic. Eastern saw three of what will likely be their toughest opponents of the season in the tournament. The Panthers held their own against a solid University of Cincinnati team, but lost by just five points.
Eastern saw a whole new level of competition in its match-ups with No. 23 nationally ranked Creighton University and North Carolina Central. They lost to Creighton by 22 and to Central by 25.
Two of the next three games for the Panthers are at home. They host Ball State on Wednesday then head west to face UC Davis in California on Dec. 9 before coming back home to face Northern Illinois University on Dec. 13.
Jehad Abbed can be reached at 217-581-2812 or [email protected]