Coming into this season, the Eastern men’s basketball team knew that it’s 6-foot-9 center Muusa Dama would be a key cog to any success found this season.
Through seven games it is clear that stands true.
The Panthers may have just a 2-5 record, but there has been plenty of competitive basketball played on their behalf.
Not to mention, their non-conference schedule stands as arguably one of the toughest in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Dama has seen firsthand what kind of competition stands under the basket within the higher competition it has seen to start the season.
And in the games Eastern does its best, Dama is one of the reasons.
On the other hand, the Panthers have seen what kind of struggles the offense has scoring or defending in the post when one of its biggest players, Dama, falls in to foul trouble.
A close loss to Southern Indiana was a fine example of that as Dama struggled to find the court throughout the first half because of foul trouble.
When he did check into the game, it was almost as if he could not play his game of that usual aggressiveness down low because of being close to fouling out.
In a matchup against Big East opponent Marquette, the Panthers were on the way to pulling off the upset but Dama wound up fouling out late in the game, leaving Eastern thinner down low in what turned to be a devastating overtime loss.
It is also worth noting how the other guys on the team have stepped up in those key situations though.
Jujuan Starks’ ability to play so big in the paint at times is what truly sparks the offense and essentially rubs off on his team.
And that is what is needed for Eastern to turn things around after somewhat of a slow start.
When the team has appeared to play at its best, scoring in the paint always has a key factor that, and Dama being in the game is vital in that case.
It was seen against Bradley, despite the game ending in a 67-56 loss, as Dama scored a season-high 20 points to go along with the seven rebounds he snagged.
To no surprise, that game also stands as his season-high in minutes played with 33.
The Panthers do not have many reasons to be worried as there is a much easier road ahead in the schedule before conference play.
It will provide a chance for Dama to hit his consistent stride as well as the chance for Eastern to end a two-game skid.
Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]