Opinion: Halftime adjustments end Panthers season


Justin Brown

Muusa Dama and Mack Smith defend the pass from Austin Peay’s Chris Porter-Bunton in the final minutes of Thursday’s 73-66 loss. The late attempt at a rally was not enough to help the Panthers battle back to overcome a second half deficit that reached as high as 12 points.

Maher Kawash, Basketball Reporter

Halftime adjustments were the reason the Eastern men’s basketball team escaped the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament with a win, but it is also the reason the Panthers are going home after round two.

Eastern had one of its best halves all season in the first, but what Austin Peay did at halftime resulted in the Panthers blowing a 16-point lead that they held.

The living proof of that halftime adjustment? Austin Peay guard Zach Glotta.

Glotta went into the break with zero points on 0-for-2 shooting.

“In the first half, I got a couple of good looks that just didn’t go in,” Glotta said. “At halftime coach challenged us, so I came out and just played my best.”

He did just that as the second half offered a completely different story, as Eastern had no answer for Glotta’s 6-of-6 shooting and 21 points.

“Not only did he do a superb job offensively, but defensively, he was lights out,” said Austin Peay head coach Matt Figger.

Whether it was an Eastern defender smothered in his face or him wiggling away from the Panther defense, Glotta scored at will in the second half and became one crucial factor in the Governors’ 73-66 victory.

“If we don’t have Zach on the floor, then we’re not as good offensively,” Figger said. “He has found his niche and role of this team, and he is one of the leaders of this team.”

In fact, three-point shooting was a huge difference maker in the second half for both sides.

The Panthers went from nailing every shot beyond the arch in the first, to having all spacing and gaps suddenly close up in the second, which just led to tough shots.

On the other hand, Eastern was getting lost in screens and players such as Glotta were on the other end for an open 3-pointer as Austin Peay finished 8-of-12 from there in the second.

Coming into this game, the Panthers knew rebounding and post play was going to be an immensely important factor.

Well, let us go back to those halftime adjustments, because it was another tale of two halves in this aspect too, with Austin Peay grabbing what seemed like every offensive board to finish with 10 second chance points.

Eastern knew it had to deal with the two-headed monster of Terry Taylor and Averyl Ugba in the post, but Taylor still found his way for a game-high 17 rebounds while Ugba snagged six of his own.

Overall, the Panthers got outrebounded 41-34, and that was just one category they had to have if they were going to pull off this upset.

Against Tennessee State, the Panthers struggled with the opposing bigs because of foul trouble; this time around, they were just outworked.

Not many teams were able to compete with that frontcourt duo of Austin Peay, which explains why a complete-game is needed to knock them off, especially in March.

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