Viser looking forward to OVC tournament

Freshman+guard+Cornell+Johnston+congratulates+junior+guard+LeTrell+Viser+after+the+Panthers%27+73-62+win+over+Southeast+Missouri+on+Feb.+22+at+Lantz+Arena.+The+Panthers+will+face+Southern+Illinois-Edwardsville+in+the+first+round+of+the+Ohio+Valley+Conference+tournament+on+Wednesday+at+8+p.m.+at+Municipal+Auditorium+in+Nashville%2C+Tenn.
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Viser looking forward to OVC tournament

Freshman guard Cornell Johnston congratulates junior guard LeTrell Viser after the Panthers' 73-62 win over Southeast Missouri on Feb. 22 at Lantz Arena. The Panthers will face Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Freshman guard Cornell Johnston congratulates junior guard LeTrell Viser after the Panthers' 73-62 win over Southeast Missouri on Feb. 22 at Lantz Arena. The Panthers will face Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Jason Howell

Freshman guard Cornell Johnston congratulates junior guard LeTrell Viser after the Panthers' 73-62 win over Southeast Missouri on Feb. 22 at Lantz Arena. The Panthers will face Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

Freshman guard Cornell Johnston congratulates junior guard LeTrell Viser after the Panthers' 73-62 win over Southeast Missouri on Feb. 22 at Lantz Arena. The Panthers will face Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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Junior guard LeTrell Viser’s first season at Eastern has been anything but uneventful.

Viser, a transfer from Des Moines Area Community College, was able to work his way into the starting lineup in time for the Panthers nine-game winning streak that started late in December.

Viser averaged nearly seven points per game during that period, including a season-high 16 point performance in a win over Northern Illinois University. A few weeks later the Panthers would host Ohio Valley Conference opponent Belmont University.

The Panthers defeated the Bruins 84-73 that day, a game that Viser called a statement maker.

“The Belmont game stood out the most,” Viser said. “That really made a statement in the OVC for us that we were one of the elite teams this year.”

Murray State would end the Panthers’ winning streak three games later, but the Panthers were able to win three more games this season which was good enough to qualify for the OVC tournament.

The Panthers will enter the tournament as the six seed and play seventh-seeded Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at 8 p.m. on Wednesday in Nashville.

Eastern split both games with the Cougars this year, winning at home 57-54 and losing on the road 80-63.

Viser said that the Panthers have been working on improving their defense after their last matchup with the Cougars resulted in four of SIU-Edwardsville’s starting five was able to reach double-figure scoring. The winner of that matchup will move ahead to the quarterfinals to face third-seeded Belmont.

“We gave up too many points and in order for us to win,” Viser said. “We have to play a good team defense. That’s our identity being a hard playing defensive team.”

Viser said the team’s ability to sit down and guard has been a big part of the Panthers success this season. They held conference opponents to a scoring average of 65.1 points per game, which is the second best defense in the OVC

Viser has had to adjust his game, since OVC play began when many teams started recognizing his shooting ability was a significant part of the Panthers’ offensive scheme. Some teams try to over pursue him on defense to keep him in check.

“I notice that my man won’t help off on me, almost to the point they completely try to over deny when I’m on the wing,” Viser said. “I hear, ‘Shooter, shooter,’ every time I walk past an opponent’s bench.”

Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said that Viser’s shooting ability is not a surprise to anyone in the conference, but that he still goes into the games trying to make plays.

“The whole thing is about trying to be aggressive offensively without going completely nuts shooting terrible shots,” Spoonhour said. “He’s got it figured out.”

Viser didn’t expect to start this season, but he has started 19 of Eastern’s 29 games this year.

“I think he’s going to be one of the premiere players for this year and next year,” guard Reggie Smith said.

Viser is looking forward to the tournament, where he and the Panthers hope to represent Eastern well in front of the Nashville crowd.

“We have to play good solid defense for 40 minutes straight,” Viser said. “We have to execute our offensive stuff and take good shots and leave it all out there for the name across the front of the jersey.. EIU!”

 

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