Men’s basketball wraps up tough month at Marquette

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Eastern men’s basketball head coach, Jay Spoonhour, said following the Panthers’ loss in their second exhibition game to Southern Indiana how tough their schedule was for November.

The Panthers went up against two Big Ten schools, San Diego State, which made the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and now take on Marquette, which made the NCAA Tournament last season.

Eastern takes on Marquette Monday night on the road.

Marquette played as the No. 10 seed in the East bracket and lost 93-73 to No. 7 South Carolina. South Carolina made it to the Final Four before being knocked out by No. 1 Gonzaga.

Through the Panthers’ first five games, they struggled to find consistent scoring and consistency on defense, but exploded for 96 points in and allowed just 44 to Fontbonne Friday in Lantz Arena.

Eastern had seven players in double figures in the win and also shot 61.3 percent from the field, which is the first time it has done that since 2014.

Jajuan Starks has quickly found a role on the team offensively. He leads the Panthers in scoring with 74 points, which is 24 more points than Terrell Lewis. Starks also leads the Panthers in rebounds.

Starks is not much of a three-point shooter, scoring 56 of his points near the basket. He spent the last two seasons as at Wabash Valley College, but has quickly found a role on the Panthers as well as being a starter.

“Jajuan has had a very good start to the season,” Spoonhour said. “I think he’s playing under control and using his strengths well.”

Even though Starks is starting to put up strong numbers, Eastern just scored 96 points, played well against tough teams, it does not give much of a look as to what the Panthers are all about.

There have been a few ups and downs in just the first five games of the season.

“It’s difficult to assess where we are, because of the games we’ve played,” Spoonhour said. “Our opponents have been quite a bit different than what we’ll see in our league.”

Spoonhour is right.

Two of Eastern’s games came against Big Ten opponents (exhibition against Illinois and season opener against Nebraska) and a Mountain West team (San Diego State)— two conferences above the Ohio Valley Conference.

For what it is worth though, Eastern has had times where it has played well against those teams.

“I have been pleased with our approach and concentration this week,” Spoonhour said.

Marquette is the final game in November for Eastern. The Golden Eagles are 3-2 following wins over VCU and LSU in their Maui Jim Maui Invitational last week.

Spoonhour said the games they played in the invitational were awfully impressive.

“Marquette is playing as well as anyone in the country,” he said.

The Golden Eagles have had two 94-point games this season and average 81 points per game, but their games are close. They allow 78.4 points per game on average.

Senior Andrew Rowsey is the leading scorer for Marquette as he averages 24.8 points per game, with 124 on the year.

Tip off is set for 7 p.m. at Marquette.

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