Panthers not looking for ‘overcomplicated’ game

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Panthers not looking for ‘overcomplicated’ game

Eastern freshmen Mack Smith cuts to the basket in the Panthers loss to Belmont on Jan. 13 at Lantz Arena. Smith said the Panthers have to get open looks against a tough Jacksonville State defense.

Eastern freshmen Mack Smith cuts to the basket in the Panthers loss to Belmont on Jan. 13 at Lantz Arena. Smith said the Panthers have to get open looks against a tough Jacksonville State defense.

Sean Hastings

Eastern freshmen Mack Smith cuts to the basket in the Panthers loss to Belmont on Jan. 13 at Lantz Arena. Smith said the Panthers have to get open looks against a tough Jacksonville State defense.

Sean Hastings

Sean Hastings

Eastern freshmen Mack Smith cuts to the basket in the Panthers loss to Belmont on Jan. 13 at Lantz Arena. Smith said the Panthers have to get open looks against a tough Jacksonville State defense.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Aside from leading the OVC with 115 blocks this season, Jacksonville State allows the least amount of points per game, has the best field goal defense per game, the best three-point defense per game and lead the league in defensive rebounds.

The Eastern men’s basketball team hosts Jacksonville State Thursday in Lantz Arena at 7:30 p.m.

The Gamecocks have a 39.8 percent field goal defense, 31.9 percent field goal defense and average 26.7 defensive rebounds per game.

The Gamecocks’ shut-down defense is an unfortunate matchup for the Panthers who have struggled as of late on offense.

Meeting the Gamecocks at the rim poses a threat, but it is something that the Panthers will have to face.

“It’s not so much driving, because we’ve lost our guys that drive,” Spoonhour said. “What you do is you run a hard offense and when you get around the goal, you’ve got to get strong.”

The Panthers’ offense scored a second-lowest 47 points Saturday against Tennessee State. The shots were not falling and Spoonhour said when that is happening, and it has before, the Panthers have to find a way to get to the free throw line more.

Eastern shot 14-14 Saturday, but it still left Nashville with a 50-47 loss.

“You have to finish,” Spoonhour said. “You can’t avoid contact. It’s not just blocking shots, they’re a really good defensive team. We’re going to have to handle the ball and get good looks. You don’t want to overcomplicate it.”

Freshman Mack Smith has proven to be a dual threat player with his ability to shoot as a guard and also get down in the paint and grab a rebound off the rim.

While Smith’s versatility forces him to have to go up against different players of Jacksonville State, just like Spoonhour said, Smith is not going to overcomplicate anything.

“We just have to be aggressive,” Smith said. “We have to outplay them, play hard, and play harder than them and get open looks and take good shots and make sure we’re having fun while we’re doing it.”

Eastern is in ninth place in the OVC standings with only one game separating them from the seventh spot and two from the sixth. The bottom is clumped together and this weekend can see some movement.

With eight games left in the season, standings are the last thing on Smith’s mind.

“Coach tells us to not worry about that,” Smith said. “We still have a long season left and even though it is eight games, he still says we have many games left, and we just come out here and compete.”

The 3-7 Panthers have a two-game home stand starting Thursday with the Gamecocks and finish it up with Tennessee Tech Saturday.

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