Panthers to host Huskies

Jehad Abbed, Staff Reporter

Head Coach Jay Spoonhour hopes the Eastern men’s basketball team can recover quickly from its loss to California-Davis on Tuesday and prepare for its matchup with Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. Saturday in Lantz Arena.

“Each individual guy needs to figure out what more they can do,” Spoonhour said. “Things will start working out.”

Eastern (3-6) is set to face Northern (3-2) in what will be only the second time it has seen the Huskies since February of 2013.  The Panthers beat Northern 59-47 in their last meeting.

With Eastern coming off a 70-80 loss Tuesday against the University of California-Davis, it looks to come back with a strong performance this weekend.

“We did not do a very good job of guarding them,” Spoonhour said. “They are a tough team to defend.”

Spoonhour said the team is able to change up the game plan more than in the past because of a large amount of returning players. He said they change things up from game to game more than he ever has.

“There will be things we do against Northern Illinois that we didn’t do against Davis, Cincinnati, or anyone else,” He said.

The Huskies are coming to Eastern following a 67-78 loss to DePaul a week ago.  Northern is led by sophomore guard Aaric Armistead, who is averaging 14.2 points per game. Armistead scored 16 points against DePaul on 6-of-13 performance from the field.

The Huskies are second in the Mid-Atlantic Conference in the rebounding category while Eastern sits in last place in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Northern averages almost 11 more rebounds per game than the Panthers. This provides a possible concern for Eastern going in to Saturday’s game. If the Panthers allow too many rebounds, they could be forced to contest a lot of shots from right under the basket.

Spoonhour said they allowed UC-Davis to make too many shots right at the rim.

“If you are letting teams get too much stuff around the rim, then you are in trouble,” he said.

Senior guard Reggie Smith only played three minutes in the Panthers’ win against Ball State University because of a minor knee injury.  Smith came out Tuesday and played 27 minutes leading Eastern with a team-high 16 points on a 5-of-8 shooting performance.

“(Reggie) bumped knees with somebody the day before the Ball State game,” Spoonhour said. “His knee got to feeling better last night.”

Smith is averaging 7.9 points per game on 36 percent shooting for the season. Spoonhour said Smith’s offense is not necessary for him to have a good performance.

“People typically judge a player on how many points they had,” he said. “But even if (Reggie’s) shots were not going in, he still would have a really good game.”

The Panthers gave up as much as 20 more points than they average for the season Tuesday against UC-Davis. After a day off Wednesday, they will begin to prepare for Saturday’s game.

“These guys are young,” Spoonhour said. “They will bounce back from that stuff.”

Eastern will host Northern Illinois at 7p.m. Saturday at Lantz Arena for its last home game until January.

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