Crossland becoming more valuable to Panthers

Maher Kawash, Basketball Reporter

Throughout the course of a long college basketball season it is important to have depth, and the Eastern men’s basketball team’s x-factor can be found on its bench.

Ray Crossland joined the Panthers this season as a junior college transfer but has taken on an important role for the team despite not starting.

With the four newcomers that joined Eastern to begin the season, the team was able to fill any holes defensively and under the basket.

Crossland has proven to be a critical defender for the Panthers such as the game against Mizzou where he made a difference despite scoring just eight points.

Against the Tigers he came away with three steals and six rebounds all while dealing with foul trouble in a back-and-forth game.

His presence was felt against Eastern’s rival as the team battled Western Illinois twice this season and has come away with victories both times.

In each of those victories, Crossland scored in double-digits headlined by six steals in the first matchup and nine rebounds in the second.

Crossland has averaged about 10 points per game off the bench this season and his performance of late is worth noting.

Despite the Panthers falling short to Morehead State recently, Crossland had possibly his best offensive output of the season finishing with 19 points in 37 minutes.

The team may have found some rhythm with Crossland in the rotation as Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour was not afraid to put the junior in for another 30-plus minutes the next game against Eastern Kentucky.

Crossland nearly came away with a double-double as he finished with 11 points and nine rebounds to help the Panthers earn their first Ohio Valley Conference win of the season.

Eastern’s depth allows them to run the offense through a number of guys on any given night and Crossland has proven he could be one at times.

His ability to get to the line is something that takes away the ‘live by the three or die by the three’ mentality that many coaches would like to stray away from.

In that highlight game against Western, Crossland found seven of his 17 points at the free throw line.

Versatility and athleticism is something that has only gotten better with the Panthers this season and Crossland is clearly a part of that healthy mix.

Eastern will now need Crossland’s recent success to continue as the team heads into the midst of its conference schedule.

Regardless of what five starters begin the game, the Panthers will need to rely on Crossland and all of the team’s depth to produce more wins such as they did against Eastern Kentucky.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 

581-2812 or [email protected]