Eastern men’s basketball team wins fifth straight

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Eastern men’s basketball team wins fifth straight

Junior guard A.J. Riley scored five points in the Panthers' 78-69 win over SEMO on Saturday in Lantz Arena. Riley has 264 points on the season averaging 11 points per game.

Junior guard A.J. Riley scored five points in the Panthers' 78-69 win over SEMO on Saturday in Lantz Arena. Riley has 264 points on the season averaging 11 points per game.

Jason Howell

Junior guard A.J. Riley scored five points in the Panthers' 78-69 win over SEMO on Saturday in Lantz Arena. Riley has 264 points on the season averaging 11 points per game.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

Junior guard A.J. Riley scored five points in the Panthers' 78-69 win over SEMO on Saturday in Lantz Arena. Riley has 264 points on the season averaging 11 points per game.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Eastern men’s basketball team is on a five-game winning streak that has put them in first place in the Ohio Valley Conference West.

The Panthers latest win came against Southeast Missouri on Wednesday in Lantz Arena.

The Panthers started OVC play 1-3, and are 6-1 in their last seven games. The winning streak started with an 87-86 overtime buzzer beater layup by junior A.J Riley.

Wednesday morning’s win was not quite as close, as the Panthers won 78-69. SEMO is now 2-9 in OVC play.

Senior wing Trae Anderson dominated the game scoring 27 points, grabbing 12 rebounds earning him a double-double. He also had four assists. Anderson did all this in just 26 minutes played.

Junior guard Demetrius McReynolds also earned a double-double by scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Anderson and McReynolds were the game’s top scorers.

The Panthers trailed at the end of the first half 42-40 but took the lead just 40 seconds into the second half. However, the Panthers never led by double-digits.

The Panther’s largest lead was nine, when the final buzzer sounded.

Anderson gave the Panthers the lead off a layup. On the following possession Anderson missed a jumper but grabbed his own rebound and passed it out to sophomore guard Cornell Johnston for the 3-pointer.

Johnston played all 40 minutes, scoring 11 points and earning seven assists, just three shy of getting a double-double himself.

The Panthers were able to get production from more than just one guy, which was important in getting the win, coach Jay Spoonhour said.

“It’s much tougher to win games in February,” Spoonhour said. “You have to really battle the entire time. I thought we did that, and the production came from a lot of different sources- that is important this time of year.”

The Redhawks and the Panthers were tied eight times throughout the game and saw the lead change on five different occasions.

Although the Panthers found themselves trailing at the end of the first half, they shot 54.5 percent from the field. SEMO shot 50 percent, and were 4-11 from beyond the arc.

3-pointers proved to make an impact in the second half as SEMO shot 1-14 from beyond the arc, 7.1 percent. Eastern improved from deep shooting 4-12.

The Panthers hit all but one free throw in the second half going 10-11 from the line.

Eastern has just five games remaining this season, all important OVC games as teams are fighting for one of the eight spots to head to the OVC tournament March 1.

Murray State is right behind the Panthers with a 6-5 record in the West division of the OVC. Tennessee-Martin is right behind Murray State. SEMO, if the season ended today, would not be in the OVC tournament with its 2-9 record in fifth place. Austin Peay is in the final spot with a little bit of a cushion at 4-7.

Tennessee Tech sits at the top of the OVC East division with a 9-2 record. Belmont is also 9-2 but behind Tennessee Tech as of right now. Tennessee State is in third with a 7-3 record.

The fight for fourth place in the East is closer than the West as Morehead State is hanging on to the final spot by just a game with a 6-5 record. Eastern Kentucky is in fifth at 5-6. The two schools will square off on Friday. Morehead State came out on top in the first meeting of the season 70-67.

Eastern’s next game will be Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Lantz Arena against Austin Peay. The women will take on the Governors right before at 5:15 p.m.

 

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]