Panthers look to get back on track against Skyhawks

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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The Eastern men’s basketball (12-8) team will hit the road this week for an Ohio Valley Conference West divisional game against Tennessee-Martin.

The Panthers have lost the last two games and hope to make up both those losses this week, beginning with the Skyhawks on Thursday.

“If you lose a game at home, you’ve got to go make it up on the road,” Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said. “It’s real hard but that’s what you’ve got to try to do.”

The Panthers are an even 6-6 on the road, including a perfect 3-0 record in OVC play.

Leading scorer and junior forward Chris Olivier will not play Thursday night because of an illness. Spoonhour said despite the loss of Olivier, his team will do fine.

“We’ve played without him before and done fine,” Spoonhour said. “The other guys are more than capable and can step up and do it.”

Junior forward Trae Anderson helped fill in for Olivier last Saturday. He had a 22-point and six rebound performance against Austin Peay. The Panthers have been posting him up lately, which is giving him more chances to score.

“He’s had more opportunities because we’re posting him up more, and trying to throw it to him,” Spoonhour said.

Despite being posted up more lately, Anderson has become a fan of Spoonhour’s up-tempo offense, giving him more points on fast breaks.

“I like fast break games,” he said. “That’s what we are doing here and I like it.”

The Skyhawks come into this game averaging 68.5 points in the last two games, which included a 17-point win over Southeast Missouri on Saturday. Senior guard Deville Smith has led them in scoring with nearly 19 points per game.

Both teams come into this contest with similar records. Eastern is 12-8 overall, while Tennessee-Martin is 12-7. However, the Panthers are two games ahead of the Skyhawks in the west division with a 6-2 OVC record in the OVC.

Spoonhour said their opponents are starting to scout and prepare for the Panthers because of early success in conference play.

“They’ll scout you and take stuff away, knock you back and you’ve just got to adjust,” Spoonhour said. “For a long time we haven’t got much attention, but now they worry about us a little bit, and they’re ready to play.”

The game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Elam Center in Martin.

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