Panthers seek revenge in California


Kevin Hall

LeTrell Viser, a guard, looks for an assist in the game against Ball State Wednesday in Lantz Arena. Viser was third in leading the team in scoring.

Jehad Abbed, Staff Reporter

The Eastern men’s basketball team looks to exact revenge Tuesday on the University of California-Davis’ home court in their second match up with the Aggies this season.

Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Week and Eastern guard Cornell Johnston will lead the (3-5) Panthers against (6-1) UC-Davis. Johnston is a top-five conference assists leader as well as minutes played. He is averaging 4.3 assists this season.

The Aggies are coming off of their first lost on the season by the way of the University of Idaho. UC-Davis fell to Idaho 70-56.

Senior guard Corey Hawkins is leading the Aggies with 20.3 points per game. Eastern will need to halt the performance of the UC-Davis guard as he scored 28 points against the Panthers on Nov. 20, when the Aggies won 63-61 in Lantz Arena.

A confident Eastern junior guard LeTrell Viser was looking toward this game as soon as the Panthers defeated Ball State University Wednesday night for their second win in a row.

“Three in a row after next game,” Viser said.

Eastern came out slowly against Ball State, but managed to stay in the game behind a double-double performance from junior forward Trae Anderson. He said their loss against UC-Davis earlier this season came down to missed open shots in the second half.

“That could be the key to the game right there,” Anderson said.

The conference best defense of the Panthers are holding teams to below 59 points per game. The Aggies score an average of 58 points per game. After holding a high-scoring Ball State team to 54 points, Eastern looks to continue its swarming style of defense early on against UC-Davis.

“We have to come out with a sense of urgency,” Viser said. “We’ve got to sit down and guard better.”

The Panthers will also need junior forward Chris Olivier to carry over his performance from Wednesday’s game.

“We need (Olivier) to stay engaged all of the time,” Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We need him to play hard all of the time.”

Olivier finished the night with a team-high 16 points along with seven rebounds and four blocks. He was a big factor in the previous meeting against the Aggies. Olivier scored 13 points in the loss along with a late-game jumper.

The Panthers are allowing 3-point shooters to connect on 36 percent of their shots. The perimeter defense will be tested Tuesday evening against UC-Davis. The Aggies put in 10-of-20 threes in their first game against Eastern.

Eastern is looking to keep their win streak alive while trying to force UC-Davis into a losing one. The Panthers and Aggies square off in The Pavilion at 9 p.m. Tuesday in Davis, Calif.

Jehad Abbed can be reached at 217-581-2812 or [email protected]