Panthers clinch OVC Tournament spot


Karina Delgado

Senior Montell Goodwin sets up the Panthers’ offense it their 76-69 loss to Austin Peay Feb. 10 in Lantz Arena. With Eastern’s win Saturday over Tennessee-Martin, the Panthers secured a spot in the OVC Tournament.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor


Somehow while playing without four point guards for a bulk of its season, and at the most important times of the season, the Eastern men’s basketball team snuck its way into the OVC Tournament following Saturday’s win over Tennessee-Martin.

The Panthers beat Tennessee-Martin 64-57 Saturday to keep their season alive and secure a trip to Evansville, Ind. for the tournament Feb. 8.

After Eastern’s win over Big 10 Illinois in an exhibition game, it seemed everything was going to be fine and dandy, but the Panthers hit more than a few bumps in a road.

“I think our goals were higher to begin the whole thing and they should have been,” coach Jay Spoonhour said. “None of us are particularly fond of how the year has gone, but for what we have had to endure and the changes we’ve had to make and the changes the players have had to go through, this is an accomplishment.”

At 6-10 currently, Eastern will either lock up the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the final two games against Murray State and Southern Illinois Edwardsville, which is fighting for the same two spots, will determine where the Panthers wind up.

The Panthers had a four-game skid at the end of January that rolled over into the beginning of February dropping them to 3-8 in OVC play.

Nearly everything Eastern had to do this season was far from what the plan was this season. Senior Terrell Lewis was supposed to continue to lead the team just as he had the previous years, freshman Mack Smith was thrown into the fire earlier than he expected, and senior Montell Goodwin was not playing 40 minutes regularly.

“We are basically doing things the antitheses offensively the way we started the season,” Spoonhour said. “Every guy has had to make an adjustment and they’ve done a good job. It’s one thing to make an adjustment and just remembering what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to play, but it’s another thing to go out and beat other teams with it.”

Eastern’s game Saturday was its final on the road this season as the next two against Murray State Thursday and Southern Illinois Edwardsville Saturday, are in Lantz Arena.

All things considered, having junior D’Angelo Jackson return and playing the past two games is good timing for the Panthers. Not having him most of the season was not, but nonetheless had a timely return for the Panthers.

Heading into Thursday’s game, Spoonhour did not know if Jackson was going to be ready to go saying that no one sits out for a month and a half and starts producing right away.

But Jackson did not seem to miss a beat.

After scoring 13 points in Eastern’s loss to Southeast Missouri, Jackson brought down 10 rebounds, scored 6 points and dished out 4 assists as well.

Spoonhour said Jackson still is not in good shape yet, but liked that he was able to produce for the Panthers.

“He still has some plays where you wish he would hold onto the ball and that’s going to continue, but he makes plays that nobody else makes,” Spoonhour said. “And he plays all the time and he tries to go rebound it. That’s a gift. A lot of guys stand and watch and he doesn’t do that too much.”

The Panthers also got big nights from Goodwin, who scored 18 points and played 40 minutes, senior Ray Crossland scored 12 points, brought down 8 rebounds and played 40 minutes and senior Muusa Dama scored 12 points.

Sean Hastings at 581-2812 or [email protected]