Men’s basketball team prepares for conference matchup

Maher Kawash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern men’s basketball team is approaching one of the most important conference games of the season as it sits at 4-12 overall and 1-3 in Ohio Valley Conference play this season.

The Panthers will take on Eastern Kentucky at 8 p.m. on Thursday as they try to salvage what has been a slow start to the season so far.

“EKU is one of the best teams in the league, so we have to maintain our concentration level, and work as a unit for greater portions of the game,” coach Jay Spoonhour said.

Eastern Kentucky comes into play with an 11-7 record overall and 2-1 record in the OVC, while recently coming off a 19-point victory over Southeast Missouri State University.

The Panthers will be put to the test; Eastern Kentucky has competed with some solid competition so far this season, such as University of Kentucky and West Virginia University.

The Colonels sit in fourth place in the OVC East. They are one game back of undefeated teams Belmont and Tennessee State.

“We just have to stay in position defensively while we try to keep from fouling them,” Spoonhour said.

Although Eastern Kentucky offers a tough challenge for the Panthers, Spoonhour said that it will come down to defending their home court.

The Panthers have played three of four conference games on the road so far this season, and will be looking to have the advantage of home court on Thursday.

“The reality is that in order to keep from losing ground to the rest of the league, you have got to protect your home floor,” Spoonhour said.

If the Panthers are going to come out on top in this conference matchup, defense will be key.

The Colonels come into play ranked as the number one scoring offense (79.8 PPG) in the OVC because of their conference-leading field goal percentage and three point shooting percentage.

The Panthers must find a way to stop the three headed monster from EKU comprised of Jarelle Reischel (20.2 PPG), Javontae Hawkins (17.3 PPG), and Nick Mayo (12.3 PPG).

“EKU can really score the ball, because they have multiple players who put a lot of pressure on you by attacking the basket,” Spoonhour said. “They are very good at forcing you to foul.”

Although they are able to score quickly, the Panthers may be able to capitalize on Eastern Kentucky’s defense.

The Colonels ranked second to last in the conference in scoring defense, and that may open a window of opportunity for the Panthers.

The Panthers came into the season with one goal and this game will be an important part of that.

“Trying to have a winning conference record is the goal, and it is still attainable,” Spoonhour said.

This will be one of two consecutive home games for the Panthers as they try to protect their home court and gain ground in the conference standings.

With a 1-3 record in the OVC, the Panthers are searching hard for a win to stay relevant in a conference that has three undefeated teams.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].