Troy beats Panthers in final seconds


Sean Hastings

Senior Demetrius McReynolds defends a pass from St. Francis' Hayden Witt Friday at Lantz Aena. The Panthers won the season opener 83-41.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

A 40-point second half was not enough to erase the slow start the Eastern men’s basketball team’s 27-point first half as Troy hung on for a 70-67 win Monday night in Troy, Ala.

In the first two games of the season, the Panthers were able to score at will. The last game Eastern finished with 83 points shooting 55.4 percent. Tonight Eastern shot just 37 percent for the game.

Eastern trailed by 11 at the end of the first half 38-27, and all throughout the second half, the Panthers just could not get the equalizer. The Panthers roared back in the second half and put the game within one possession nine times.

Junior guard Montell Goodwin finally got the shot to fall that tied the game 67-67 with 23 seconds left in the game. But with 3 seconds left, Troy’s Jordon Varnado put the nail in the coffin with a jumper to make it 69-67.

Eastern got the ball back but senior forward Demetrius McReynolds turned it over forcing Eastern to foul and put Troy back on the line.

B.J. Miller hit one of two free throws to make it 70-67, giving Eastern its first loss of the season.

At the end of the day, the slow first half is what hurt the Panthers. Both Troy and Eastern’s stats were fairly similar with Eastern leading a couple categories.

Troy shot just 3 percent better overall, but the Trojans won the battle down low with 32 points in the paint compared to the Panthers’ 20.

“We had a stretch at the end of the (first) half where missed jumpers turned into layups for them,” Coach Jay Spoonhour said. “It went from a 2-point game to a 10-point game pretty quick.”

The second half featured the Eastern team that was present in Lantz Arena Sunday and Friday of last week. And if there was another positive that came out of the game it is that the new players continue to make an impact.

Junior forward Muusa Dama grabbed 10 rebounds, good for a game-high and Goodwin scored 18 points and was a perfect 6-6 at the free throw line.

Last year as a freshman, Casey Teson was strong from beyond the arc, but in the first few games struggled to find the stroke, but was 3-6 Monday with 17 points.

Yes, the Panthers lost, Spoonhour knows getting this team running full-go and having everything click is going to take much longer than three games. And event through three games, there have been spurts where it seems like this team has been playing with each other for years.

“We did a lot of thing well,” Spoonhour said. “We played as a unit in the second half. Troy is a really athletic team and I think they’re a good team. This game will help us, if we learn from it.”

Eastern will hit the road Thursday to take on Saint Louis before coming home for back-to-back games Saturday and Monday, which includes an opportunity to conquer Troy this time around.

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