Panthers fall flat, lose to Tennessee Tech


Venkata Poosapati

Junior Montell Goodwin eyes the basket during Saturday’s 87-68 loss to OVC conference opponent OVC Tennessee Tech.

Sean Hastings, Men's Basketball Reporter

The Eastern men’s basketball team has really put itself in a corner, and that is a corner it cannot afford to be in. Fresh off two wins, the Panthers ran into a tough Tennessee Tech team and lost 87-68 Saturday at home.

Nothing was going the Panthers’ way Saturday, when Eastern scored, Tennessee Tech either matched it or hit a 3-pointer which the Golden Eagles were 11-20 from beyond the arc.

A perfect example of that was junior Ray Crossland going on a fast break, dunking, and having the ball pop back out after it seemed like it was all the way down. Eastern’s public address announcer announced the good score from Crossland. It was that close.

The referees called a travel on the play, but that was waved off and the Panthers were given the ball because Crossland grabbed his own rebound. Eastern could not convert and Tennessee Tech’s Aleksa Jugovic went down and hit a 3-pointer for the Golden Eagles. If Crossland’s dunk was good, Eastern would have been within 10.

“That was a killer,” coach Jay Spoonhour said. “It’s not (the nail in the coffin) but when you’re trying to come back, you need every point you can get.”

The rule is that the ball has to clear the net for it to be a good score.

“Those are actual points,” Spoonhour said. “When you take bad shots or turn the ball over, you’re giving away points. When you actually make one and it comes back you, you know it isn’t your day.”

And it definitely was not the Panthers’ day. They found themselves in a hole early on and it was just like they were trying to keep up with the Golden Eagles, but it was too much.

Junior Muusa Dama has been a huge for Eastern all year down low. Being the big man to get the ball to for a post play, block shots, and get rebounds. But the problem with Dama all season has been is that he finds himself in foul trouble and he has to take a seat on the bench for some time.

Dama racked up two fouls in less than seven minutes, causing him to only play four minutes in the entire first half. His presence was surely missed. Tennessee Tech outrebounded Eastern 18-11 in the first half and only six points in the paint in the first half. Eastern had just 17 to Tennessee Tech’s 37 for the entire game.

“That changes everything for sure,” Spoonhour said. “It affects more than you think. If you think about our team last year and really in previous years, we didn’t have anyone that can affect stuff. Muusa is really able to that stuff for us. Him going out really really hurts.”

Spoonhour said even though losing Dama hurts, they have to be able get around that and still play well. A loss Saturday hurts Eastern, but it still is mathematically in the hunt for a tournament spot.

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