Eastern with chance at winning record

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor


Eastern’s chance at the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament may be gone, but the chance to finish the season with an overall winning record and make another post-season tournament is possible.

The Panthers will head to Southern Illinois Edwardsville to take on the winless Cougars. Eastern sits at 14-14 overall and a win would give them the winning record they need to have to have a shot at getting in a post-season tournament.

Eastern’s surge at the end of the season was just a bit too late, but if that surge continues, the team can still find itself playing basketball in March.

It has been nothing but struggles for SIUE this season. The Cougars are 0-15 in OVC play and 5-24 overall.

The offense also has not been there for the Cougars. SIUE averages just 67.8 points per game and Eastern has regularly put up 75.4 points per game for its season average.

It was not present all season, but the Panthers have always had the ability to shoot 3-pointers and make them at will. It came out against Austin Peay as they hit 17 3-pointers in the game.

SIUE is not a threat from beyond the arc, shooting just 29 percent from that spot on the floor. As far as field goal percentage goes, the Panthers and Cougars are almost the same right around 41 percent.

The Cougars have found a way to bring down the rebounds with 1030 on the season, but Eastern’s 1050 surpasses that.

On paper, Eastern dominates Southern’s stats and should win this game, finish with a winning record and hand the Cougars’ their 16th loss of the season.

But college basketball is college basketball, and the players at this level are all talented and can come up at anytime.

The Cougars’ biggest loss margin was 23 to regular season conference champion Belmont, but other than that they are close but just cannot find a way to win.

Eight of their 15 losses have come by 10 points or less. Even though this is a game Eastern should win, nothing will be handed to them. A conference tournament “should” have happened, but did not.

For what was supposed to be a conference-bound men’s basketball team, a regular season game with no OVC Tournament following is a tough one to swallow, but a winning record definitely means something.

“The opportunity to finish over .500 is an important achievement,” coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We’ll need to play well. SIUE has fought hard all year and has been in every game down to the end.”

Eastern will not know if it will be invited to a tournament right after the game, but a win is mandatory for it to even be a possibility.

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