The Daily Eastern News

Diallo making impact for Panthers

Junior+Aboubacar+Diallo+runs+off+the+floor+after+a+timeout+called+by+coach+Jay+Spoonhour.+Diallo+has+been+playing+more+minutes%2C+and+Spoonhour+said+teams+are+starting+to+concern+themselves+about+Diallo+down+low.
Junior Aboubacar Diallo runs off the floor after a timeout called by coach Jay Spoonhour. Diallo has been playing more minutes, and Spoonhour said teams are starting to concern themselves about Diallo down low.

Junior Aboubacar Diallo runs off the floor after a timeout called by coach Jay Spoonhour. Diallo has been playing more minutes, and Spoonhour said teams are starting to concern themselves about Diallo down low.

Sean Hastings | The Daily Eastern News

Sean Hastings | The Daily Eastern News

Junior Aboubacar Diallo runs off the floor after a timeout called by coach Jay Spoonhour. Diallo has been playing more minutes, and Spoonhour said teams are starting to concern themselves about Diallo down low.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The past few weeks the Eastern men’s basketball team has needed players to step into new roles, whether it is changing the way they play, increasing minutes, or for someone like senior Montell Goodwin, trying to do everything.

Someone like junior Aboubacar Diallo may not have any breathtaking plays, but has played vital minutes over the last six games.

Through the first 11 games, Diallo had four double-digit minute games. Since then, he has played six straight.

He has had at least one block in each of those six games, including five in a loss to Austin Peay Dec. 30.

And he is having fun doing it and takes pride in protecting the rim hard.

“I love to play ball, it’s why I came to the U.S.A. for ball and go to school,” Diallo said. “Now I need to produce more in basketball.”

Spoonhour likes what he has brought to the table for the Panthers.

“Bouba (Diallo) is doing a good job,” Spoonhour said. “The other team has to concern themselves with Bouba. He’s doing a good job defensively.”

And through the first 17 games last season, he played 134 minutes; this year he has played 180.

When Diallo and senior Muusa Dama, both standing at 6-feet-9, are in the game, it forces teams, like it did with Belmont, to shoot instead of driving to the basket. While it may seem like a fool-proof plan, it did not work.

Not because Eastern could not play defense outside, but because Belmont was able to shoot three-pointers at will.

Fade away three at the buzzer? Check.

Rim ricochet and then off top of the backboard and in? Book it.

Hand in the face rainbow shot? Yep.

Eastern made it difficult on Belmont; it just happened to make 52 percent of the shots it took from deep.

“When neither Bouba or Muusa were in the game, they got layups in the first half,” Spoonhour said.

More than half of Belmont’s points were three pointers.

With what both Diallo and Dama bring to the floor, Diallo said it is fun to play along side him.

“We speak French a lot on the court, and he knows I got his back and I know he has my back,” Diallo said. “I learn so much from Muusa on offense that makes me better. My coach helps both us to play together.”

While Diallo and Dama are trying to hold down the fort defensively, Goodwin is putting together near 40-minute nights having played six-straight over 35 minutes.

“We’re telling him ‘you’re never coming out, you have to bring it up and organize everybody, plus you have to guard the other team’s point guard on these ball screens and you need to score a lot of points,” Spoonhour said.

Spoonhour said there are athletes that never get tired, but Goodwin does get tired at times.

“He’s gutty and he’s fighting through it and he’s playing,” Spoonhour said.

Frustrations are starting to build for the Panthers because this hard work is not fully paying off.

“This one (game against Belmont), we feel like we can come back out, practice right, think some more, do things that worked and do some other things a little better and you can build off of it,” Spoonhour said.

Eastern is 2-4 in OVC play and Diallo said he is motivated to step up as a junior and help the Panthers get back in the win column.

“We do have two really good guards out, so for me as a junior, I have to play better everyday and get better by listening to my coach, practice hard and show that we still have a great team and can still win the game.”

Eastern still has two games left on its four-game home stand against Tennessee-Martin Thursday and Southeast Missouri Saturday.

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

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Diallo making impact for Panthers