Panthers out played by Northern Kentucky

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Panthers and Northern Kentucky were close the whole way through, but the Norse were able to hang on to their leads and pull away with an 80-70 win over the men’s basketball team Wednesday night.

On most nights, Northern Kentucky’s Lavone Holland II is the assist leader, but Wednesday it was his shooting that sank the Panthers.

Holland put up 28 points and just one assist in the win, with season-leading scorer Drew McDonald behind him with 17 points.

Despite the scoring outburst from Holland II, the Panthers were always in the game. Eastern took a brief 63-62 lead with 7:25 left in the game, but Northern Kentucky went on an 18-7 run to finish the game.

It was early in the game, but the Panthers did have a six-point lead at 14-8 and only trailed by as much as 11.

Eastern had it within two points with 3:28 left in the game, but Holland hit a 3-pointer and it gave the Norse a five-point lead and began to pull away for good.

“Holland was really good,” coach Jay Spoonhour said. “Both 3’s he made late were at the end of pretty good defensive possessions. He stepped up and made the plays you have to make.”

Offensively, the Panthers shot the ball well and as they have all season had multiple players involved.

Junior guard Cornell Johnston kept the hot hand in his second straight game scoring 17 points to accompany senior guard Demetrius McReynold’s 16 points.

Eastern shot 44.8 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from beyond the arc, which was better than Northern Kentucky’s 32 percent from three.

Northern Kentucky shot 50 percent overall, just 6 percent better than Eastern, and Holland’s 53 percent shooting only made it tougher for Eastern.

It is hard to look around and point a finger at exactly what went wrong for the Panthers. They kept their turnovers below 10, only outrebounded 37-30, and even cut down on the number of times they sent their opponent to the free throw line.

Some days a team runs into a hot shooter and everything they try to do just is not enough.

“We didn’t have quite the spark defensively that we needed to have,” Spoonhour said. But they were poised. We couldn’t force them into mistakes

The Panthers will head to Western for a 2 p.m. tipoff Saturday to take on the Leathernecks.

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