Men’s basketball team dominates St. Francis in season opener


Sophomore guard Casey Teson passes the ball to a teammate during the Panthers’ 83-41 win over St. Francis Friday in Lantz Arena. The Panthers will travel to take on Troy Monday.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor


One year ago, the Panthers barely were able to sneak by NAIA Division II opponent St. Francis (IL), but Friday night’s game proved which is the better team.

Eastern turned last year’s three-point victory into a 42-point 83-41 win this time around, and from the first play of the game, it seemed like it would be a long night for the Fighting Saints.

Last year when the Panthers played St. Francis, they struggled to guard the Fighting Saints’ guards, who coach Jay Spoonhour said are smart, good players who can score and cannot rattle them.

“We stole (a win) from Eureka,” Spoonhour said. “You weren’t going to steal it from these guys. We didn’t steal it from them. You’re not going to take it from them.”

Eastern’s junior forward Muusa Dama won the jump ball but his tip went toward the St. Francis basket and was picked up by St. Francis’ Landus Anderson for what looked like an easy layup for the first two points of the game.

But 6 foot 9 inch, 225 lbs., Dama came up from behind and blocked the layup chance straight into the backboard, and it allowed sophomore forward Patrick Muldoon to hit a jumper.

“The first play of the game really wasn’t a good play,” Spoonhour said. “Muusa tips it and then goes down and blocks the shot. You just don’t see that kind of stuff too often. You just don’t see a 6’9” guy who can run a 4:25 mile. He can do some unbelievable things.”

Dama added three more blocks throughout the game that contributed to the team’s seven overall in the game.

Eastern’s stats for the first half and the second half are near identical. The Panthers scored 40 points in the first half and shot 53 percent and scored 43 points and shot 56 percent in the second half, but the biggest difference was turnovers.

The Panthers turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, but that can be expected from the new Panther team, Spoonhour said.

Dama, junior guard Montell Goodwin and junior wing Ray Crossland each had two turnovers in the first half. But Spoonhour is happy with how the new guys are fitting into the Eastern program and are helping it become more “athletic.”

Eastern’s athleticism on defense led it to getting down the court quick to set up its offense.

“We shot the ball well, so that erases some stuff,” Spoonhour said. “When you shoot it well it feels great; you think you played great. And I don’t think we played bad.”

As the only senior on the Eastern roster, forward Demetrius McReynolds led the offense with 18 points.

And with the way the offense started rolling, McReynolds said they were just having fun, and a lot of it stemmed off of McReynolds’ perfect toss to Dama for an alley-oop to give Eastern a 32-21 lead.

“That was my first time throwing an alley-oop,” McReynolds said. “It felt good.”

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