Panthers host SEMO on Senior Night

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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The Panthers will host Southeast Missouri in an Ohio Valley Conference matchup on Sunday night, while also playing the last home game with five seniors.0219_MBALL_KH

Those five include guards Reggie Smith and Dylan Chatman, and forward’s Mat Piotrowski, Josh Piper and Keenen Anderson.

They will be honored before the game, which is being promoted as a “Black Out.” Just like Thursday night, the first 500 fans to enter Lantz Arena will receive a free Eastern black t-shirt.

The game is also very important to the Panthers who need a victory, in hopes of getting a bye in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, which takes place in two weeks.

The Panthers head into the game with a 15-12 record and 8-6 record in OVC play. The Redhawks, who defeated Eastern a couple of weeks ago, are 12-15 and 6-8 in the OVC.

Forward Chris Olivier, who scored a career-high 25 points in a loss to Tennessee-Martin on Thursday, said that he’ll do whatever it takes to send the seniors out with a victory.

“It’s senior night. We got to send those guys off with a win,” Olivier said. “I can’t even think about losing the last home game. So whatever it takes, whatever I have to do send those guys out right.”

Olivier tied the school record for blocks in a single game, with six on Thursday.

“Having Chris back is great, because we can obviously score in the 70s,” Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said.

The Panthers got off to a slow start for the second game in a row last week. The Skyhawks started the game on a 13-0 run before the Panthers made their first bucket of the game and mounted a comeback to get back in the game.

Spoonhour said there is no easy explanation for the Panthers’ slow starts the last few games, especially when you consider that they once started a game off on a 22-0 run.

Spoonhour added he is concerned about the Panthers’ ball security, particularly on the glass. Eastern was outrebounded on Thursday 46-21, and only corralled five offensive boards. That is something that Spoonhour said has been a problem throughout the season.

“Obviously we’ve got to grab a ball and secure it,” Spoonhour said. “We stand and watch it too much, and have our hands on it and we don’t secure it. We’ve done that all year.”

The Panthers want to control the game defensively, and Olivier said that Spoonhour has been preaching that the Panthers need to slow the game down to have more success.

“Coach said we’ve got to make it a gritty game, get tough, and slow the game down,” Olivier said.

Being smart on defense is another goal for the Panthers on Sunday.

“We have to do a whole lot right on the defensive end,” Spoonhour said. “We have to be real smart and real tough, and do it all the time.”

The Panthers and Redhawks will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at Lantz Arena.

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