Panthers set school record

Jehad Abbed, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern men’s basketball team defeated Morehead State Saturday for its school record setting ninth straight win.

The Panthers (12-6) have already improved their record over last year. They have 11 regular season games left one the schedule. Eastern finished their 2013-2014 season with a total of 11 wins.

Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said he doesn’t want to downplay what his team has done this season.

“This is what we wanted,” Spoonhour said.

Ten of the Panthers’ remaining 11 games are against Ohio Valley Conference opponents. Their only non-conference game they have yet to play is against Baker University on February 3.

Eastern is now 6-0 in OVC play this season.  After their strong start in conference play and current winning streak, the Panthers are now ranked No. 23 in the mid-major top-25 poll.

Spoonhour attributed much of the team’s success to the growth and maturity of his players.

“We’ve got guys that feel like they’re going to win,” he said.

The Panthers’ upcoming game is Thursday against mid-major top-25 No. 8 ranked Murray State University.

Spoonhour again spoke on how his team is right where they wanted to be and how they have worked hard to get there.

“The guys are excited about it,” he said. “They have earned the right to have a big game.”

In the past three weeks, Eastern has held a spot in OVC Players of the Week twice.

Two weeks ago, junior forward Chris Olivier was given the award. This week, freshman guard Cornell Johnston was named the recipient of the Player of the Week award as well as OVC Freshman of the Week.

The starting point guard is scoring 7.8 points and recording a team best 4.2 points per game. Johnston averages the sixth most assists in the OVC.

He also sits at fifth best in the conference for 3-point field goal percentage on 45 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Eastern’s win streak is heavily influenced by the team’s ability to hold opposing offenses to low shooting percentages and low scores each game.

The Panthers are the top conference team in points allowed with just 60.2 points per game. They are also the overall leaders in the OVC in field goal percentage defense holding teams to just 39 percent shooting on the season.

While the panthers are the best defensive team in the conference, they are scoring just one more point per game than they are allowing.

Spoonhour said statistics keepers who like Sabermetrics would have a tough time realizing why the Panthers continue to win.

While having one of the lowest scoring offenses, the Panthers are also one of the worst rebounding and free throw shooting teams in the conference.

Despite the obvious troubles in some aspects, Eastern is still coming away with victories and walking through the conference in aggressive fashion.

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