Final six minutes in each half hurts Panthers


Bryan Bund

Senior Muusa Dama goes up for a layup in the Panthers’ win over Illinois Nov. 3 in Lantz Arena. Eastern lost to Western 56-54 Wednesday night in Macomb. With the win, the Leathernecks take back the Old Rail Splitter Trophy the two teams compete for.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Turnover, turnover, two made free throws, missed jumper, turnover, missed three-pointer, turnover, missed jumper, missed layup, turnover and a missed three-pointer.

That is how the final 5:46 of the first half went for the Eastern men’s basketball team, with an eight-point lead turn into a two-point deficit. The second half was nearly the identical.

That time it had a seven-point lead turn into a two-point loss and 56-54 win for Western Illinois.

Western may have won the game, but in reality, it was just the better of two poor shooting teams Wednesday night. The Eastern men’s basketball team dropped its second straight game 56-54.

The Panthers settled for jump shots late in each half and could not get them to fall and Western happened to have one more drop.

When Eastern started to settle, Western started to mount its comeback. Eastern shot 19-55 and Western shot 20-54 from the field.

Coach Jay Spoonhour said it was not so much about execution, but rather becoming passive.

“We just weren’t aggressive enough,” Spoonhour said. “Western made some really good plays at the bucket and we took it at them and the blocked it. I think there was probably some times on drives we missed open guys. I’ll have to look at it,  but we probably needed to execute better down the stretch.”

Eastern’s eight-point lead was the largest either team had in the game. Western’s largest lead was five points and that was just over two minutes into the game.

Eastern’s defense held its own against Western, but two last six-minute runs led by Dalan Ancrum, who hit three three-pointers and added a pair of free throws in the final six minutes of the second half to complete the turnaround.

He scored the final 11 points for Western.

“He’s just a hard guy to defend, because he’s (6-feet-6 inches) and he shoots it way above his head and then he does make those threes and he can make big ones,” Spoonhour said.

When Ancrum went to the free throw line, Eastern had a good defensive possession until then, Spoonhour said.

Eastern had seven steals defensively, but could not finish in transition on all of them. And it is not like Western had a blistering hot offensive not.

“You hold a team to 56, probably feel like you ‘ought to win it,” Spoonhour said.

Part of Eastern’s problem last season was trying to do too much on occasion and that was present Wednesday night.

“It’s every guy dong a little bit too much. That’s where those come from, just trying to make plays that aren’t there and that will get figured out,” Spoonhour said about the Panthers’ 19 turnovers.

The Panthers have their home opener Friday night against Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis.

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