Column: It’s a marathon for Panther basketball team

Maher Kawash, Basketball Reporter

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Junior guard Cornell Johnston, center, talks with his teammates after a time out against St. Francis Friday night in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won 83-41.

Sean Hastings
Junior guard Cornell Johnston, center, talks with his teammates after a time out against St. Francis Friday night in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won 83-41.

College basketball always brings a special atmosphere to the sports world at this time of year.

It is nowhere near the hype that is seen in March Madness, but it is still filled with early season upsets and unknown rising stars making a name for themselves.

Well the Eastern men’s basketball team has a few guys who have already proved themselves, while some try to follow in their footsteps.

Another thing the Panthers have proven over the years and once again in this new campaign is the battle of starting slow.

After picking up an easy win over NAIA St. Francis in its opener, Eastern went home Monday night with a back-and-forth 70-67 loss to Troy College.

Eastern has some great potential surrounding the team this year, so that loss may come as a surprise. But let us take a closer look.

The Panthers struggled early on in every facet of the game, which is why Troy had an 11-point lead heading into halftime.

It seems as if in recent years of Panther men’s basketball, the team can always start slow but still finds its way back to make it a close game.

Here we are in a new campaign and in just game two, Eastern fits its old mold with the halftime adjustments to make it a game.

The Panthers managed to claw their way back as the offense found its touch while the two teams exchanged leads in the late going.

It obviously did not end in Eastern’s favor, but this second game of the season was a prime example of what this team is, was and can be.

Even in that first win against St. Francis, turnovers plagued the start until the team found its grip to run away easily.

If the Panthers can erase these early deficits that have been the downfall in recent seasons, then there is a special opportunity in store.

But the early struggles do not end just in game action as it happens to be a common trend in recent seasons overall for Eastern.

Last year, the Panthers opened their season with a 3-9 record against non-conference opponents, and the year before that saw Eastern go an even 6-6 in that stretch.

But even though they struggled early on in those seasons, both years saw the Panthers go on a five-game win streak in the midst of their conference schedule.

It has been known and done in the past that this team can succeed despite any slow start to a game or season.

The college basketball season is certainly a marathon, not a race, and the athleticism and experience of this Eastern team can help them to the finish line.

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