Smith scores 22, leads Panthers to win over Skyhawks


Sean Hastings

Freshman Mack Smith drives to the basket to draw the foul, where he went to the line to score two of his 22 points in Eastern’s 80-60 win over Tennessee-Martin Thursday.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Freshman Mack Smith put together a season-high scoring night to help lead the Panthers to their first win of their four-game home stand against Tennessee-Martin Thursday in Lantz Arena.

Smith scored 22 points and brought down 11 rebounds in Eastern’s 80-60 win over the Skyhawks. He was 6-13 from beyond the arc, contributing to Eastern’s 13 as a team.

Coach Jay Spoonhour said, following Eastern’s loss to Belmont Saturday, he wanted everybody to do a little bit more and be more consistent. Smith filled that role Thursday night.

He dedicated his strong performance to his brother, Dijon, who died before they graduated high school.

“I’m just looking forward to playing with my teammates before my seniors leave and we’re just going to keep progressing and going hard,” Smith said.

What impressed Spoonhour the most about Smith’s performance was bringing down 11 rebounds as a guard.

And Spoonhour always brings up that shots are going to fall some nights and some nights they will not. Tonight, Eastern shot 41.8 percent. But the rebounds are a game changer for Eastern.

“Having another guy that steps up and makes them is a big deal,” Spoonhour said. “But the rebounds are a huge deal. We have a hard time hanging on to it sometimes. (Smith) was flying in there and he was snatching legit rebounds.”

He said sometimes when guards get rebounds it is because the ball simply rolls to them.

Smith shot 7-15 overall and Spoonhour hopes to see much of the same Saturday when Eastern hosts Southeast Missouri.

“You don’t want to put all your value into (just scoring),” Spoonhour said. “Because if they don’t go in, and they don’t always go in. It’s a jumper and by rule they’re going to go in less than 50 percent of the time no matter how good of a shooter you are.”

That is why his rebounding plays a larger role in Spoonhour’s eyes. Smith handled the ball all Thursday, he beat the Skyhawks’ press, something Eastern did not do one week ago against Tennessee State, and rebounded.

Eastern dropped the first two games of the home stand, but brought its record back up to 3-4 with the win over the Skyhawks.

Senior Montell Goodwin has been the Panthers’ main scorer over the last stretch and Smith is hopeful and confident he can do the same with Goodwin.

The numbers are not going to matter to Smith; however.

“(This game) shows me what I’m capable of at the college level,” Smith said. “I don’t really think about how many points I’m going to score, how many threes I’m going to shoot, how many rebounds I’m going to get, I just go out there and see what happens.”

The Panthers are back in action Saturday against Southeast Missouri.

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