Panthers host Bradley for first time in 97 years


Justin Brown

Junior guard Cornell Johnston looks eyes the court for an open teammate Sunday Nov. 6 at Lantz Arena. The Panthers defeated the Red Devils 94-58 in their only exhibition game of the season.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Home has been pretty sweet to the Panthers to start the year, the men’s basketball team remains 4-0 in Lantz arena and will have a chance to make it 5-0 when it hosts Bradley on Tuesday.

The last meeting between the two schools was in 2012, which resulted in a decisive 76-53 loss for the Panthers. But Eastern has not hosted the Braves since 1919.

The game in 1919 ended a little bit differently from what any fan or player is used to today. Bradley took that 1919 contest 19-15. The game was not even played in Lantz Arena.

The Panthers and the Braves squared off in the Pemberton Hall Gym.

Eastern is riding a three-game win streak coming into this matchup and since losing back-to-back games, the Panthers got back on the right track and have since stepped back up to their level of play.

And in the losses the Panthers suffered, it was a tough one to swallow because Eastern was right there and it ended up slipping away.

“I think that we were kind of just sick of losing,” sophomore guard Casey Teson said of the Panthers’ mindset in their three wins. “We all told each other that we were going to lock in on defense and not take any plays off throughout the game.”

At the beginning of the season coach Jay Spoonhour and junior guard Cornell Johnston said the junior transfers the Panthers brought in were fitting in nicely, and that is still standing true.

Muusa Dama is making his presence known around the Ohio Valley Conference and the NCAA as a whole. Dama, standing at 6 feet 9 inches, is second in the OVC averaging 10.5 rebounds a game and is 16th in the NCAA.

Dama’s height and speed has allowed him to make plays down low and block shots. He leads the OVC with 11 blocks and has at least one per game, with a season high of four coming against the Saint Francis Fighting Saints in Eastern’s home opener.

Ray Crossland has also played an effective roll on defense and is quickly making his mark in the OVC and the NCAA.

Crossland averages 2.8 steals per game and has recorded 15 in his last four games. His 2.8 steals per game is good for second in the OVC and 11th in the NCAA.

The wing has also scored in double figures in his last three games and averages 10.2 points per game. His season high of 17 came against Western.

The disruption by Dama and Crossland on defense is one thing that Eastern will need as they attempt to even up the all-time series with the Braves.

“One thing that is really important is that we keep the pressure on the other team and continue to make them turn the ball over and not let them run the offense they want to run (it),” Teson said.

The Panthers have forced 121 turnovers this season and have only turned the ball over 81 times themselves.

Eastern has outscored its opponents 435-378 this season and have held its opponents to an average of 63 points per game.

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