Matchup with SIUE gives Panthers chance to get back on track

Maher Kawash, Men's Basketball Reporter

It has been a tough five game stretch for the Eastern basketball team considering the expectations for the team heading into the season.

But the Panthers are facing their chance to turn it all around with a team that may be struggling even more.

Southern Illinois Edwardsville comes into town Saturday afternoon for an Ohio Valley Conference matchup with just eight games left on Eastern’s schedule.

The Panthers have some work to do to gain some ground in the conference standings, but that focus has turned into one game at a time for the team.

At 1-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference and 9-12 overall, Eastern sits one game ahead of their upcoming opponent in the bottom of the standings.

The Cougars come into the matchup still winless in the OVC and 5-17 overall, but that could be credited to their offensive woes.

Eastern has had its fair share of struggles with its offense down the stretch in games, but Southern Illinois Edwardsville has had it much worse ranking last in the OVC in scoring offense.

While their average of nearly 69 points scored per game is the worst, the Panthers sit in the middle of the pack with about 75 per game.

The Cougars have been off course all season long getting outscored on average against their opponents by almost eight points per game.

This could serve as the perfect game for a Panther team that just needs a win especially after seeing several leads blown in this current skid.

Eastern’s defense led by Muusa Dama’s presence down low and Ray Crossland’s all-around physicality could lead to a special day against a Cougar team that ranks dead last in field goal percentage in the conference.

The Panthers scoring attack of Dama, Montell Goodwin, and Demetrius McReynolds could all see much-needed high scoring performances.

If Eastern is going to take advantage of the Cougars seventh ranked scoring defense, then it could take a first step in making a comeback in the conference.

What’s Going On Ahead of the Panthers

At this point of the season for Eastern winning the final eight games must be the mentality if there is any chance of earning a berth in the postseason tournament.

But with the recent skid, that may have to come with some luck of the teams ahead of them having a tough stretch of their own.

The top eight teams earn a berth in the OVC tournament and right now the Panthers are chasing Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri State in the West division to get in.

Austin Peay may be the first hurdle to cross although they are just one game back of the Redhawks, but that will be settled soon.

Those two teams ahead of Eastern will face off Saturday while the Panthers try to get their 2nd win in the conference this season.

Austin Peay does have some notable games coming up against Murray State, Tennessee State, and an extremely important one against Eastern on February 16th.

Southeast Missouri on the other hand is just 1-9 in road games this season, and has some tough ones against Murray State, Morehead State, and Eastern down the stretch.

It is definitely too early to be playing what if with any games as it should be taken one at a time, but there is little doubt that the Panthers should be hoping for some extra losses in those two opponents.

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