Smith makes most of opportunity


Katie Smith

Reggie Smith, a senior guard, scored a total of 30 points in a two-game span during last week’s OVC tournament.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Eastern senior guard Reggie Smith ended his Ohio Valley Conference career with a pair of double-figure scoring games at last week’s OVC tournament.

He totaled 30 points through two games, which included a season-high 17-point performance in Thursday’s loss to Belmont.

In that game, Smith was 5-for-9 from three-point range and 6-for-9 from the field for the entire game.  The 97-64 defeat to Belmont ended Smith’s OVC career and a chance to compete at the NCAA tournament in two weeks.

“We knew coming into the game that if they got comfortable shooting then it was going to be tough to win, and they did,” Smith said. “From there, not much could be done.

Smith also reached double-figure scoring against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Wednesday, totaling 13 points. Smith shot 2-for-5 from beyond the arc in the 78-66 win over the Cougars.

He also had a season-high eight rebounds along with two assists in Eastern’s first OVC tournament victory since 2010.

Even though the Panthers are not expected to make the National Invitation tournament, Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said the Panthers were not saying goodbye after the loss to Belmont.

“I told the guys that reality is we’re postseason eligible,” Spoonhour said. “We’re not going to go the NIT, but there are other tournaments that are really good tournaments. We’re not saying goodbye to anybody yet, because we still want to play some ball.”

Spoonhour is familiar with several people who have competed in those tournaments, and they had nothing but positive things to say about them. They are just as competitive as any other tournament.

Another game with his team, which he considers a family, would be another opportunity for Smith to help get the program further on its feet, which has been a goal for him since arriving at Eastern.

“I know before I came it was kind of on a downhill slide,” Smith said. “I think now it’s starting to pick itself up and a lot of people are starting to get interested in it as far as recruits in high school and other kids around us who want to play collegiate basketball.”

The Panthers have not competed in the postseason since 2001. That year the No. 16 seed Panthers were defeated by No. 1 seed Arizona, 101-76.

Smith has noticed the changing environment around Eastern, especially with the team’s recruiting. Every recruit that has visited Eastern has signed with the Panthers, he said.

“This school now has become like one of those programs that kids are looking for around Illinois and the St. Louis areas,” Smith said. “I actually saw film of a couple of kids and met a few who came out for a visit. I forgot their names, but obviously every kid that came for a visit has signed here.”

Smith averaged 7.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game this season for Eastern, who finished the season with a 17-14 record, which is their first winning record since 2010.

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