Opinion: Men’s basketball 3 games away from OVC

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Two things have come up for the Eastern men’s basketball team in just the first month of the season.  The first being the Panthers beating Illinois in the exhibition opener, which potentially set a tone of what could have been expected for Eastern this season.

The game against Illinois was a game added to the already tough non-conference schedule.

And the tough schedule was what coach Jay Spoonhour wanted to get the Panthers geared up for OVC play, which is just three games away now for Eastern.

A four-point loss to Nebraska and a three-point overtime loss to Marquette, somewhat speaks volumes as to what the team is capable of. It can hang with the best.

But just “hanging” in the OVC will not mean anything. Spoonhour said it before: The Panthers have to find a way to pull one of these games out.

The figuring it out phase should still be in the rearview mirror, but it seems as if Eastern is still there and the road has been a struggle.

Sure enough, the first four games of Eastern’s OVC schedule are on the road. The Panthers start open on the road at Murray State Dec. 28, two days later they are at Austin Peay, Jan. 4 they are at Morehead State and Jan. 6 they are at Eastern Kentucky.

Eastern is 0-6 on the road and its next game is at South Alabama. The Jaguars are 5-5 this season, with their most recent game against OVC Southern Illinois Edwardsville ending in a 76-65 loss Sunday afternoon.

The Cougars overcame a seven-point deficit at halftime to beat the Jaguars. Southern Illinois Edwardsville’s Jalen Henry scored 26 points, with 16 of them coming in the second half.

The Jaguars have just three regular starters as the other two are on a game-to-game basis.

Junior guard Rodrick Sikes is the team’s leading scorer and he has only started four out of the Jaguar’s nine games. He scored 13 points against Southern Illinois Edwardsville Sunday night and averages 15.5 points per game, coming off the bench.

Once Sikes gets on the floor he is there for a while. He averages 27.3 minutes game, which is third most on the team and more than Herb McGee, who has started nine out of the 10 games.

When the Panthers play South Alabama Dec. 16, it is their last chance to figure out how to win on the road before coming home for two final games to wrap up their non-conference schedule.

Eastern has showed too many signs of being a talented team to be where it is eight games into the season.

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