Eastern’s fate for third-straight road game up in air

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour told the men’s basketball team before the season that they may “do very well, but not have any wins to show for it.”

That is the boat that Eastern is in right now. The Panthers are set to play Green Bay on the road Wednesday.

The Panthers matched up with Big Ten team Nebraska and Big East Marquette, but both games ended with losses. The two losses came by only seven points.

“The record is truly immaterial,” Spoonhour said. “For the players though, they want to win and they don’t quite get it, but I understand. Had we won at Marquette, you could have counted on one hand that would have been bigger wins in EIU basketball history.”

And that is what Spoonhour wants the rest of the team to understand is that the Panthers and anyone watching has to be able to assess them other than by their wins and losses.

The Panthers are 0-5 on the road and Wednesday’s game against Bradley will be the third of a four-game road trip. Eastern does not play at home until Dec. 19 against Western, which gives the Panthers a chance to redeem themselves.

Eastern lost 56-54 to Western on the road Nov. 15 and that was because the Panthers were unable to close out both halves and struggled to score.

“We still are figuring out how to score if we aren’t shooting it well,” Spoonhour said. “Shooting well is great, but it’s a crutch and we do a better job (scoring other ways) this year, but we do have to figure out a way to get baskets. We’ve had two games where we scored in the 50s.”

He said the Panthers have to do a better job getting fouled and scoring in transition.

Even though the Panthers have come close pulling off these upsets and playing well against teams of a higher caliber and coming close on the road in general, close will not be good enough in the future, Spoonhour said.

“At some point, it’s not enough to just hang around, you have to go and get a W,” Spoonhour said. “Playing this many road games against quality teams makes it hard. When you go on the road, anything can happen.”

Green Bay lost its last two games, just has Eastern has and has a 2-4 record and a 2-1 record playing on its home court.

Green Bay has three players averaging double-digit scoring games. Guard Khalil Small averages 14.8 points per game.

Spoonhour said the Panthers are still trying to figure things out as a team and playing on the road against the teams they have played has made that tough.

The Phoenix are in the same boat. They played Minnesota in a exhibition hurricane relief game, Northern Illinois for the regular season opener and SEC Mississippi State.

Both teams are in need to get back into the win column, Spoonhour said.

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