Johnston leads Panthers to overtime win over Northern Kentucky

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Johnston leads Panthers to overtime win over Northern Kentucky

Celebrations abound as the Panthers defeat the Northern Kentucky Norse 79-73 in overtime on Saturday in Lantz Arena.

Celebrations abound as the Panthers defeat the Northern Kentucky Norse 79-73 in overtime on Saturday in Lantz Arena.

Jason Howell

Celebrations abound as the Panthers defeat the Northern Kentucky Norse 79-73 in overtime on Saturday in Lantz Arena.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

Celebrations abound as the Panthers defeat the Northern Kentucky Norse 79-73 in overtime on Saturday in Lantz Arena.

Blake Nash, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Eastern men’s basketball team ended its four-game home stand in dramatic fashion on Saturday night. The Panthers defeated Northern Kentucky, 79-73, in overtime for their second straight victory, with a pair of All-Ohio Valley Conference players leading the way.

Sophomore guard Cornell Johnston ended the first half with six points, but went on to add 18 more in the second half and overtime, giving him 24 points total. He was 3-of-5 from three-point range and 8-of-14 from the floor, one of which included a short jumper that tied the game at 62 to send it to overtime.

Sophomore guard Cornell Johnston scored 10 points during the Panthers' 79-73 victory over Northern Kentucky.

Jason Howell
Sophomore guard Cornell Johnston scored 10 points during the Panthers’ 79-73 victory over Northern Kentucky.

He had 10 points in overtime in the victory.

“To be honest I just wanted to win,” Johnston said. “I didn’t care who made the play, or who it went to. I just told our guys to go out there and give me their max effort, everything they had and they did.”

The max effort by Johnston and the rest of the Panthers resulted in a battle with the Norse that saw 16 lead changes and 72 combined points in the paint. Eastern had 38 points in the paint, 14 of which were earned by senior forward Trae Anderson.

Anderson finished with a double-double of 19 points, including a pair of dunks that drew the Eastern crowd to its feet and 12 rebounds. Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said Eastern had been needing Anderson to play great in the early stages of the season and that he came through for a stretch late in the game.

“I’m not sure he played great the whole game, but man was he good for about six to eight minutes,” Spoonhour said. “Trae (Anderson) knows that he needs to be great, but it’s a whole different thing for him. In high school it wasn’t like he was the man, he’s changed as a player.”

But it was not just players that were making shots that pleased Spoonhour. Reserve forwards Marshawn Blackmon and Joe Kuligoski played big roles on defense, not just making steals and rebounds, but also provided good help defense for the Panthers.

Blackmon, a freshman, finished with eight points and three steals, finishing off a pair of steals with scores, including a dunk that ended an 0-for-6 Eastern drought that started the second half. Both he and Kuligoski combined for six rebounds off the bench, with Kuligoski coming down on the defensive glass.

“Defensively (Blackmon) did a great job of helping,” Spoonhour said. “There were a couple of times they should’ve scored and they had to at least pass a couple more times before they scored. Everybody that’s getting out there is starting to help out.”

Northern Kentucky was led by guard Lavone Holland II, who recorded a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds for the now 1-5 Norse.

The win was much needed for the Panthers, who are about to embark on a five-game road trip, a polar opposite of their recent home stand.

“This win’s going to give us momentum going into these next few games,” Johnston said. “It’ll help us believe that we can be with anybody on the court and win any game.”

Eastern’s road trip will begin on Wednesday when they will travel to Marshall for a 6 p.m. showdown. The matchup will be the opening round of the Global Sports Classic, which will end a few days before Christmas in Las Vegas, Nev.

The tournament includes Houston, Omaha, Southern and North Carolina Central. Eastern will have to play Houston on its home court, but the rest of the tournament will be at a neutral site. Also on this road trip is a rematch with in-state rival Western Illinois, who defeated the Panthers, 83-63, last month.

“It’s hard to keep guys together on stuff like that,” Spoonhour said. “Winning these last two is huge because you don’t want to go on the road looking for a must win.”

1205_MBB_JH_9070Jason Howell

 

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