For a team that was projected to finish 2nd in its division, the 3-8 Eastern men’s basketball team has suffered its fair share of disappointments this season.
The Panthers suffered an 87-68 loss to Tennessee Tech Saturday afternoon, and from the very start it became clear that this team may have more problems than previously thought.
It is as if each loss brings out a different issue or small mistake that should only be haunting a team early on in the season.
With five games remaining the Panthers are on the outside looking in when it comes to the conversation of any postseason action.
After a comeback win over Tennessee State just two days before, the Panthers just came out flat against the Golden Eagles and the defense paid the price.
“We weren’t getting a whole lot of help off the bench and it was just one of those games,” Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We don’t have the luxury to have one of those games right now.”
Stops were hard to come by for Eastern leading to a 15-point halftime deficit, and it just displayed how this team can be so out of place at times.
It is never just one thing that has caused this unexpected downfall for the Panthers, and the struggle to create any offense proves that in other games.
Against Tennessee Tech the Panthers shot right around their average from deep at 37 percent followed by 44 percent shooting from everywhere else.
But the stops just never came for the defense, allowing the Golden Eagles to make 55 percent of all their shots in the game.
“We’ve backed ourselves into a corner and you can’t come out and play like that I just can’t believe it. “We make some silly mistakes and it’s a little late in the year to make those mistakes.”
The Panthers big men have been struggling with foul trouble in nearly every loss and the rebounding numbers, ability to protect the rim, and spacing on offense are all negatively impacted from it.
It is not just one problem plaguing them anymore and their 3-8 conference record is a result of that.
In Eastern’s recent stretch of games as the previous two wins came when the defense limited the mistakes and held both opponents to under 70 points.
“We’ve played poorly before but this is the first time I’ve felt that were just not hearing each other.” Spoonhour said. “We’re slow to read stuff and we have guys out there just on different pages.”
With eight losses it is safe to say the Panthers’ backs are against the wall and they need to win the final five games just to have a chance of cracking the conference’s top eight.
The opportunity also grows tremendously in Eastern’s next four games as it is the four teams sitting above them in the division standings.
“You have to play well and were not paying well,” Spoonhour said. “If you don’t play well enough to win home games then you probably deserve what you get.”
Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]