Opinion: Post play crucial for men’s basketball team in conference tournament


Justin Brown

Senior Montell Goodwin looks for an open teammate to pass to after driving into the lane in the opening half of Wednesday’s round one game. Goodwin led all scorers with 20 points and added two steals, two assists and a block.

Maher Kawash, Basketball Reporter

EVANSVILLE, IND–Survive and advance becomes the common phrase when March Madness arrives in college basketball and the Eastern men’s basketball team is living up to that with their seventh OVC tournament win in program history.

But something was slightly missing in that two-point, 73-71, win over Tennessee State Wednesday night; it was the Panthers’ front court.

Eastern played the latter half of the second period without one of its most important players, Muusa Dama.

Not only did the Panthers suffer a setback when he had to sit out, but they also suffered when he had to play through foul trouble, which was nearly the entire game.

Dama was limited and not able to be his usual tenacious self because of the foul trouble and that allowed the Tigers to dominate the post early on.

“We swat at it too much,” Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We have times where we get in there and we’re not disciplined enough just trying to make plays that aren’t there.”

In fact, half of Tennessee State’s 24 points in the first quarter came in the post with the Tigers’ big man, Christian Mekowulu, earning 13 of those.

He was also one of the main reasons for Dama being in foul trouble, as he went 5-5 from the free-throw line in that half.

Adjustments were crucial in this one though, as Mekowulu did not get to the line once in the second half, compared to their two meetings in the regular season, where he was 19-of-23 attempts at the line.

“Tennessee State is good at making you foul, but so is Austin Peay,” Spoonhour said. “We swing at the ball when a lot of those times we already have them guarded well.”

But as the game went on, it was also clear Eastern needed help down low for rebounds, and that will be the case once again when the Panthers face Austin Peay Thursday night.

It is even worth noting that even though Eastern won the rebound battle in this one 34-31, not many came from the frontcourt of Dama, Aboubacar Diallo and Lucas Jones.

That trio combined for just eight of the Panthers’ rebounds and what makes that stat stand out even more is Eastern’s guard Devantae Price had seven.

But, that is why the Panthers prevailed in this first round game.

It is not always going to be a common victory, especially once the postseason rolls around and that is enough for Eastern.

At least for now.

The Panthers are about to take on a team in Austin Peay that ranks fourth in the OVC in scoring offense but offers a unique approach to the rebounding game which can prove to be so crucial.

The Governors are first in offensive rebounds with an average of 13 per game, but they rank last in defensive rebounds.

As far as the need to avoid foul trouble, Dama will need to contain Austin Peay’s six-foot-seven forward Averyl Ugba, who is a force in the paint and proves that by ranking ninth in the OVC with an average of 15 points per game.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]