Eastern heads to Oakland for CIT first round matchup

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern men’s basketball team will compete in a postseason tournament Tuesday for the first time since 2001.

The Panthers will travel to Rochester, Mi., to take on Oakland in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

The Panthers have never faced Oakland during the last three years that head coach Jay Spoonhour has been at Eastern.

However, Spoonhour said the Golden Grizzlies remind him of Ohio Valley Conference champion Belmont, who is competing in the NCAA tournament this week.

Spoonhour said that the Grizzlies can shoot the ball really well, and they feature one of the best point guards in the country in sophomore Kahlil Felder.

“Felder is their leader and helps get them going,” Spoonhour said. “I think he’s 10th in the country in assists, and he can really shoot and get it done in the lane.”

Spoonhour said Felder is a big, strong athlete, who gets fouled a lot and can also knock defenders out of the way to finish at the basket. The Panthers will most likely have freshman guard Co0311_MBB_JHrnell Johnston guarding Felder throughout the game, with others possibly facing him later on.

The Panthers were told on Tuesday, March 10 that they would be competing in the CIT, which lifted their mood after a loss to Belmont in the OVC tournament.

“At first when we lost in the conference tournament, everyone was down because we all expected to do really more than what we did,” senior guard Reggie Smith said. For this one (CIT), I think at first everyone was like, ‘okay it’s not where we wanted to be,’ but now that we’re practicing and back together, we’re all excited for what’s next and playing this week.”

Spoonhour said that he is excited for Smith and the seniors to have a chance for a different memory in their final college season. He also said that this is an opportunity for the juniors and other underclassmen to shape the ground for next season.

Despite having a .500 record, Spoonhour said that the Grizzlies 16-16 record still qualifies for a good season, especially considering that the Grizzlies were dealt a tough schedule this year.

“If you’re .500 or better than you’ve had a good season,” Spoonhour said. “Oakland has played a very tough schedule this year, which I think included seven teams from power five conferences.”

Oakland’s non-conference season consisted of road trips to Michigan State, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Maryland and Iowa State. All of those teams, except for Clemson will be competing in postseason tournaments this month.
Smith said he wants this tournament to challenge the Panthers, to see how bad they want it.

“I just want it to challenge the guys on the team and see how hard and bad we want it,” Smith said. “I just want to see us, after everything, see how hard we work and what we can take back from the tournament, for the future of this program.”