Panthers stay perfect through holiday break

Chris+Oliver%2C+a+junior+forward%2C+attempts+a+lay-up+in+the+match-up+against+Belmont+Sat.+in+Lantz+Arena.+Oliver+ended+the+game+with+16+points.
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Panthers stay perfect through holiday break

Chris Oliver, a junior forward, attempts a lay-up in the match-up against Belmont Sat. in Lantz Arena. Oliver ended the game with 16 points.

Chris Oliver, a junior forward, attempts a lay-up in the match-up against Belmont Sat. in Lantz Arena. Oliver ended the game with 16 points.

Kevin Hall

Chris Oliver, a junior forward, attempts a lay-up in the match-up against Belmont Sat. in Lantz Arena. Oliver ended the game with 16 points.

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall

Chris Oliver, a junior forward, attempts a lay-up in the match-up against Belmont Sat. in Lantz Arena. Oliver ended the game with 16 points.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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The Panthers prevail undefeated achieving its best OVC start in history.

Out of four OVC games the Panthers had to come from behind in all but one, including an overtime victory over Jacksonville State on January 3.

Against Jacksonville State the Panthers trailed by 12 points with 7:52 left to play, when they mounted a comeback and sent the game into overtime. They eventually won in overtime after a 13-4 run led to a 59-50 victory over the Gamecocks.

Chris Olivier led the Panthers with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“We were down 12 and we had to do something,” coach Jay Spoonhour said. “So we played a smaller group of guys to try and turn up the pressure a little bit more.”

Junior guard LeTrell Viser aided the comeback with three 3-pointers and finished with nine points and five rebounds.

“Viser is such a streaky and rhythm shooter,” Spoonhour said. “When he makes one, he’s libel to make a few more after that.”

On Jan. 1 Eastern hosted Tennessee Tech for its OVC opener. With 17 seconds remaining the Golden Eagles’ Charles Jackson hit a pair of free throws to give Tennessee Tech a 59-55 lead.

The Panthers hurried down the floor and with seven seconds remaining guard Reggie Smith hit a three-pointer, forcing Spoonhour to call a timeout to set up his defense.

Eastern’s press forced a Tennessee Tech turnover and on the ensuing possession Olivier was fouled. Olivier made one free throw to tie the game. Dylan Chatman was fouled on the rebound and made both free throws to win the game 61-59.

Olivier and Smith led the Panthers with 22 and 11 points, respectively.

Olivier also played a big role in the comeback victory over Cleveland State on Dec. 23, 2013.

The junior power forward scored the final five points on a late 10-0 run to give the Panthers another come-from-behind victory.

He would finish with 12 points and three rebounds, while fellow forwards Trae Anderson and Luke Piotrowski finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Piotrowski also had seven rebounds in his second consecutive start.

In his first start of the season, the 6-foot-11 junior finished with nine points, including a monster dunk, followed by a free throw, in a 60-56 victory over Indiana State on Dec. 20, 2013.

It was the first victory over the Sycamores in 25 years.

Olivier and Anderson led the Panthers with 15 and 14 points, respectively, while freshman point guard Cornell Johnston came through with 11 points, which included a key layup to help ice the game.

“My team told me to stay confident and keep attacking and that’s what I did,” Johnston said. “I thought it was a big play, but it wasn’t as big as the others. Our whole team made big plays throughout the game.”

A 64-57 come-from-behind victory over Tennessee State on Jan. 7 helped set up the big matchup with Belmont last Saturday. In that game the Panthers led from start to finish, including leading by as much as 18 points with 8:07 remaining in the game.

The Panthers wound up beating Belmont 84-73 for the seventh consecutive victory.

“We’ve still got a long way to go, but we still think we’re going to win, which is a great thing,” Spoonhour said.

 

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