Starks’ 27 points not enough in overtime loss


Bryan Bund | The Daily Eastern

Jajuan Starks drives the basket for Eastern in the team’s win over Illinois Nov. 3 at Lantz Arena. Starks led the team with 27 points and added eight rebound in Eastern’s overtime loss to Marquette Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

Maher Kawash, Basketball Reporter


Jajuan Starks just transferred into the Eastern men’s basketball team this season, but his ability to play bigger than himself is making a huge difference for the Panthers to start the campaign.

That was exactly the case Monday night as Eastern put another power five conference opponent on upset alert in game against Marquette.

Starks played much bigger than many would expect from his 6-foot-4 frame as he consistently found his way into the post for lay-ins or blown whistles to get himself to the free-throw line.

Not only did he drop 27 points in an overtime-thriller against the Golden Eagles, but he also hustled his way around in the paint to snag eight rebounds.

His grit and grind was a vital reason in the Panthers having a real shot at pulling off the upset, despite the game slipping out of their hands in an 86-83 overtime heartbreaker.

Starks seemingly rubbed off on the rest of Eastern’s team as most possesions ended with a lay-in or a trip to the line.

But what killed the Panthers’ chances in this one was their ineffectiveness at the line as the team had 21 chances but made just 15 for a 71 percent rate.

Starks’ ability to matchup with any opponent in the paint also pays off immensely when the Panthers’ big man Muusa Dama gets into foul trouble.

That became a problem late against Marquette for Eastern as Dama fouled out after scoring 12 points in the game.

The Panthers just were not able to go back to Starks in overtime, and their 31 percent rate from the three-point line was not enough to complete the upset bid.

Regardless of the loss, Eastern showed that it can compete with any team if its offense sticks to a game plan of working the paint.

The Panthers are no longer settling for jump shots; the focal point for the offense has been to get to the paint and draw fouls.

While the wins may not have panned out as much in this tough stretch of non-conference play, it will pay dividends going forward as there is some light at the end of the tunnel schedule-wise.

Starks’ big man ability will make a difference when the Panthers head into Ohio Valley Conference play, as well as when they face some lower level non-conference teams in the coming weeks.

Time will tell if Starks can keep this up, but if he does and if the Panthers can continue to migrate their offense into the paint, the wins will come in bunches.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]