Racers’ big first half pushes past Panthers

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Racers’ big first half pushes past Panthers

Eastern senior Ray Crossland drives the lane in the Panthers' 76-66 loss to Murray State Thursday in Lantz Arena. Crossland had 13 points and seven rebounds.

Eastern senior Ray Crossland drives the lane in the Panthers' 76-66 loss to Murray State Thursday in Lantz Arena. Crossland had 13 points and seven rebounds.

JJ Bullock

Eastern senior Ray Crossland drives the lane in the Panthers' 76-66 loss to Murray State Thursday in Lantz Arena. Crossland had 13 points and seven rebounds.

JJ Bullock

JJ Bullock

Eastern senior Ray Crossland drives the lane in the Panthers' 76-66 loss to Murray State Thursday in Lantz Arena. Crossland had 13 points and seven rebounds.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Thursday’s game against Murray State started way faster than the Eastern men’s basketball team thought it would and wanted it to.

The start did not phase the Racers as much and they were able to pull away with a 76-66 win and take sole possession of the OVC as Belmont lost to Jacksonville State Thursday night.

The Panthers and the Racers traded baskets until it was 20-20. Hardly any defense was played and coach Jay Spoonhour noted that each team only having two fouls in the first half showed that.

Eastern did not even get to the line in the first half and Murray State was 3-4 from there. It was up-and-down and up-and-down the court for both the Panthers and the Racers for the first 7:47 of the first half where both teams scored its 20 points.

Murray State went on a 25-16 run to close out the first half and led 44-36 at the end of the first half.

“They just kept going,” said senior Montell Goodwin. “When we started to miss some shots they just kept capitalizing and when we were on defense, we just started to get a little bit tired and they kept the energy up.”

Eastern’s shots fell for much of the first half as it shot 48.4 percent, and with a 12-point deficit heading into the second half, Eastern went ice cold for the first 9:08 shooting just 1-10 from the field.

Goodwin and freshman Mack Smith led the scoring charge, just like they have over the last two months, but even they struggled to put the ball in the basket early in the second half. Smith finished with 22 points, but had 17 in the first half.

“The start kind of got us in a bad situation because we were just missing and couldn’t get in a flow and a rhythm so we had to pick it up on defense,” Goodwin said.

And in the second half, when Eastern was looking for stops, especially with the start it had, it did not get them. The rebounds were near even with Murray State edging the Panthers 39-35.

Before the game, Spoonhour said that Murray State is a great defensive team and Jonathan Stark and Ja Morant play well together and that Shaq Buchanan does not get enough credit.

Those three each scored 15 points to go along with Terrell Miller Jr.’s 20.

“We were not staying in front of them and we weren’t guarding them very well,” Spoonhour said. “We gave up 44 points (in the first half). We can’t give up 44 points, not to anybody. That’s a good defensive team we’re playing.”

Goodwin said he liked the effort and saw things that the Panthers were able to do against Murray State, the top team in the OVC. He said if they can play with the Racers then they can have the confidence to play with anybody come tournament time.

Eastern and Southern Illinois–Edwardsville play Saturday in Lantz Arena and both are battling for the No. 7 spot in the tournament.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 

581-2812 or [email protected]