Panthers win exhibition on Norman’s late three


Jason Howell

Senior wing Trae Anderson scores 18 points in the Panthers’ 74-71 exhibition game win against St. Francis on Tuesday in Lantz Arena.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

It all began for Luke Norman late in the second half in Tuesday’s exhibition game. The Eastern men’s basketball team was in possession of the ball, when it was knocked away from sophomore point guard Cornell Johnston. Johnston raced down the end of the court, diving for the ball, but the ball rolled out of bounds.

Johnston slowly got to his feet, and Norman, a senior, was sent in to play point guard the rest of the game. With just 25.9 seconds left in the game, St. Francis led 71-69, until Norman came around a pair of screens, before launching a three pointer that would win Eastern the game 74-71.

Norman added a pair of free throws at the end, to give himself five points on the night.

“A.J. (Riley) and Trae made great plays and I was just spotting up,” Norman said. “It was great to have a game like this early, to help us get ready for late game situations.”

Junior A.J. Riley was in his first game as a Panther, and scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Riley transferred from John A. Logan College, and was one of eight Eastern newcomers to see action on Tuesday. Freshman Lucas Jones added nine points for the Panthers, who defeated the NAIA Saints for the second consecutive year.

The Saints showed they weren’t a team that would be an easy opponent for an exhibition. After all the Saints were ranked No. 11 in the NAIA preseason poll. But the level of competition that they bring to the table is why coach Jay Spoonhour wanted to schedule them.

“We could’ve played teams that we could just beat flat out ugly,” Spoonhour said. “I knew these guys were good that’s why we played them. It’s good for us.”

For a team that has come into the season with higher expectations than in the past, the Panthers needed to face good competition in the preseason and non-conference play. Eastern was predicted to finish third in the Ohio Valley Conference west division, behind Murray State and Tennessee-Martin.

But when the newer faces on the Panthers needed help in the second half, they got it from veterans such as sophomore point guard Cornell Johnston, senior forward Trae Anderson and Norman. Anderson and Johnston with 18 and 14 points, respectively.

Eastern shot better in the second half, going 16-of-33 from the floor, but so did the Saints, who finished the game shooting 52.8 percent. Eastern countered St. Francis’ shooting with 35 rebounds, including 24 on the defensive glass. Both Riley and another junior transfer, Demetrius McReynolds, led the team with seven rebounds.

“They were a tough team. You can’t discredit them,” Riley said. “We’ve just got to work hard on closing down all shooters, and taking away the big play shot.”

Spoonhour said that he thought the Panthers effort and concentration was fine, but at times the team needed to play smarter. Now that the Panthers have played a game, they know where they currently stand before the season, which Spoonhour said is a bit of a way to go.

“We know we have a ways to go, but we’ll keep battling,” Spoonhour said. “When a game doesn’t count against your record it’s smart to play a team that’s going to challenge you.”

When the games do count, Eastern will still be tested, especially in its first game at Indiana. That game will open the regular season on November 13.


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