Eastern traveling to Tennessee-Martin

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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At 1-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play, time is running short for the Eastern men’s basketball team to figure things out. There is time to get it all together, but it cannot afford too many more losses.

A team with six loses will most likely make the tournament at the end of the year. Eastern made it last year at 9-7. There is no need to worry, but a win on the road at Tennessee-Martin Thursday would be huge.

The Panthers’ slow start to conference play has them in fifth place in the OVC East and Tennessee-Martin is 2-3 in third place in the East.

Eastern has guys who love to shoot the ball and who shoot the ball well. Coach Jay Spoonhour said after Saturday’s loss to Austin Peay that he liked the shots the Panthers took and specifically pointed out sophomore Casey Teson and junior Montell Goodwin.

He said when they get an open look, he wants them to shoot it, and they need to make it.

Goodwin is shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the arc and Teson is shooting 40.6 percent.

But the key to all of this is making smart jump shots, and really trying to get into the lane and draw fouls, which is something the Panthers have struggled to do as of late.

Senior Demetrius McReynolds scored 32 points on Saturday, making 13 field goals and only three were 3-pointers.

“That’s how you score a lot of points,” Spoonhour said.

Sitting at 1-4 and knowing the importance of the game with Tennessee-Martin, guard Eastern Terrell Lewis have been locked in on solid defense and working hard in practice.

“(We need to) play extremely tough on defense,” Lewis said. “I’ve been out here in practice since that last loss. Practices have been tougher than I’ve seen all year. We’ve got guys making plays and even players on the bench stepping up.”

The Panthers play with intensity on the court with Ray Crossland’s hard-nosed defense, junior Muusa Dama’s height to get a block or throw down a big dunk, and Lewis’ speed and ability to draw attention and get another guy open.

Everyone on the team is excited and ready to get back to the level they know they can play at and start winning games, Lewis said.

Lewis also believes there’s a way for the Panthers to start scoring more points.

“Pressure on the defensive end,” he said. “If we get pressure and get out in them passing lanes and get steals and breakaways, it will make it easier for us to put up points. We’ve been lacking on the offensive end, putting up points. I feel like a couple extra steals, a couple extra offensive rebounds and just playing harder it will get us over that hump.”

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