No room for error in Eastern loss to Belmont

Maher Kawash, Men's Basketball Reporter


When it comes to a team that has consistently dominated the Ohio Valley Conference such as Belmont, there is not much room for error, and that was the case for the Eastern men’s basketball team Wednesday night.

The Panthers were able to stay the course with Belmont throughout the first half as they trailed by just four heading into halftime.

But after Belmont made eight of its next nine 3-pointers, there was no coming back for Eastern in the 77-64 defeat as the Bruins won their 10th game in a row for good reason.

That has just been the case for the Panthers as at times they play so well, but the next they fall into a horrid stretch that costs them the game.

And that is exactly what Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said as the talent on the Panthers is there but the team is just going through something tough right now.

It also does not help what Belmont team came into Lantz Arena Wednesday night. The Bruins are ridiculously good from deep and that showed in the first few minutes of the second half as they sank four consecutive 3-pointers to make a statement.

“We do get into a deals where we don’t have enough poise during the games,” Spoonhour said. “We have had too many times where we get ahead or behind and start playing differently, and that’s what we have to get fixed and figured out.”

After a tough non-conference stretch from deep for Belmont, the team still leads the OVC in 3-pointers made per game and that was clearly the game plan against Eastern.

Stretches like that are just hard to overcome for Eastern and especially against a team in Belmont which has continued its undefeated streak in conference play.

With their fifth straight loss, it has come pretty close to being panic time for a Panther team that was projected to finish second in its division this season.

“You’re halfway through your conference season, and I don’t know if it’s panic team but it’s pretty close.” Spoonhour said. “I don’t want anarchy but I want healthy panic.”

Despite being at the bottom of the conference right now, junior Muusa Dama said the locker room is still confident in what they can do and the mentality has to be to win out in the team’s final eight games.

Dama showed that on the court as well by posting a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds as well as guarding Evan Bradds, one of the conference’s best players.

The Panthers did not play all that bad against Belmont and the 13-point differential to end the game really does not show all that happened.

Eastern is essentially right there, but a 1-7 record in the OVC and five straight losses, just makes that hard to prove.

“I’m proud of how we fought and it is not easy for these guys right now,” Spoonhour said. “They know that they can be a good team and they know they have been a good team, and it’s just a tough thing when stuff you’ve been doing well and you all of a sudden can’t find it.”

Eastern will get its shot to turn things around Saturday against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

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