Panthers being heavily outscored in second half

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Eastern men’s basketball coach Jay Spoonhour said the Panthers need to start making more shots each half.

The Panthers are finding ways to stay in games, but just barely, and that goes for wins and losses. Four of their six wins combine for just a 12-point differential. The other two wins were massive blowouts of Fontbonne and Saint Francis, which combined for an 88-point differential.

Like Spoonhour said, their shots have to start falling more, especially in the second half. The Panthers start strong, outscoring their opponents 496-463, but everything falls apart in the second half.

Eastern’s shots stop falling, and its opponents make shots at will. The Panthers’ opponents outscore them 509-471 in the second half of games.

A fine example of a second-half collapse was Eastern’s loss to Green Bay Dec. 6 on the road. The Panthers took a 13-point lead into halftime, but the Phoenix flipped the script and outscored the Panthers 33-18 to win 59-57.

Eastern also lost to Marquette because of a slow second half. It was not a complete let down as Eastern still scored 30 points, eight less than what it did in the first half, but it was not able to score down the stretch.

It ended with an 86-83 overtime loss.

When the Panthers lost to Bradley Dec. 1 on the road, it was not poor shooting from Eastern that did it—the Panthers actually shot better in the second—but moreso the Braves’ 59.09 percent shooting in the second.

The Braves led the Panthers by just three, 25-22 at the end of the first half, but Bradley exploded for 42 points in the second half to pull away for a 67-56 win. And senior Muusa Dama’s game-high 20 points was not enough to eliminate the fact that Bradley shot nearly 60 percent.

But Bradley was one of the best teams Eastern played in non-conference play. Throughout non-conference play, the Panthers struggled to turn the corner.

Eastern picked up two wins in its last two games and the last one thanks to a stellar defensive performance in the first half where it limited Eastern Kentucky to just 19 points. The Colonels did, however, score 34 points in the second half, still making the second-half struggles hold true for Eastern.

The Panthers won 54-53 because of two consistent halves. Nothing explosive, but just enough to pull off a win.

And if Eastern wants to turn that corner in its upcoming games this weekend, it will not come easy to them. Tennessee State and Belmont both have huge second halves.

The Tigers have scored 528 points in the second half, compared to just 431 in the first, while the Bruins have put together 705 points in their second halves and 580 in the first.

Belmont does give up a lot of points in the second half too. It has allowed 678 in the second after getting by with just 525 in the first. Belmont has played two more games than the Panthers, but both numbers still would be substantially more if Eastern did not have two games in hand.

Time will tell to see if Eastern can put together that full game.

Sean Hastings can be reached at581-2812 or [email protected]