Panthers beat Cougars to end three-game skid

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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The Eastern men’s basketball team ended its three-game losing streak on Saturday with a 57-54 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at Lantz Arena.

Freshman guard Cornell Johnston attempts to go up against a defender in the men’s basketball game Saturday in Lantz Arena against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Johnston scored 12 points for the Panthers.

Kevin Hall
Freshman guard Cornell Johnston attempts to go up against a defender in the men’s basketball game Saturday in Lantz Arena against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Johnston scored 12 points for the Panthers.

Southern Illinois’ freshman guard CJ Carr hit a late three-point shot that forced Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour to call a timeout.

The Panthers were close to facing a fourth straight defeat. Spoonhour set up a new motion offense on the next play that resulted in a game-winning lay in and trip to the free-throw line for junior forward Trae Anderson.

The Panthers improved to 7-3 in the Ohio Valley Conference and 13-9 overall.

“We were running our new, little motion offense,” junior guard LeTrell Viser said. “Trae got it and saw he had an open side, and he just went to work.”

Anderson led the Panthers with a game-high 20 points and seven rebounds.

Freshman guard Cornell Johnston finished with 12 points, four assists and four rebounds for the Panthers.

“It’s good to win,” Spoonhour said. “We talked about it after our last game, during practice. I just told them at some point we’re going to win a game, and it’s going to be really, really ugly.”

The Panthers started the game off on an 11-0 run that turned into a 26-19 halftime lead. They lost the lead with 14 minutes remaining in the second half and wouldn’t regain it for another seven minutes when Viser hit a 3-pointer to put the Panthers back on top.

“I’ve been having a shooting slump through the previous games that we’ve been losing,” Viser said. “It felt so good just knocking that down and just seeing the atmosphere go up after that.”

With less than 10 seconds remaining, senior guard Reggie Smith forced the Cougars junior guard and leading scorer Donivine Stewart to turn the ball over on a double dribble.

On the next possession, Johnston was fouled with 2.4 seconds left and would later end the game with a pair of made free throws.

“Reggie did a great job just guarding and sitting down,” Viser said. “When we were watching them, we noticed they do a lot of ball fakes, and I fell for a few of them. Reggie just guarded Donivone Stewart and fortunately he double dribbled after that.”

Stewart was six-of-nine from the floor before the turnover including five-of-seven from the 3-point line. He finished with a team-high 19 points.

The Panthers shot 33.9 percent from the floor, but forced 17 Cougar turnovers.

“That’s kind of how it’s going to have to be for us to win games. We’re not going to do it pretty,” Spoonhour said. “The game’s got to be kind of messed up looking, ugly, for us to win. Which is okay. At least we know that.”

Spoonhour said he thought the defense did a fine job and played smart, especially in slowing down the Cougars’ senior guard Kris Davis.

“The best thing for us is Kris Davis, who can really score, only got three shots off from behind the three,” Spoonhour said. “Dylan did a nice job guarding him. I thought all-in-all we were pretty smart. We did some good stuff.”

The Panthers will host a non-conference game with Baker University at 7 p.m., Tuesday night at Lantz Arena.

 

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