Eastern men’s basketball team facing tough Texas team on road


JJ Bullock

Eastern senior Lucas Jones leaps in the air to defend a shot by a Eureka player in Eastern’s 79-44 blowout win in exhibition play on Friday night. The Panthers’ open the regular season Tuesday night against Texas on the road.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

The men’s basketball team opens the season Tuesday in what may possibly be its biggest challenge of the season.

Eastern will face the University of Texas on the Longhorns’ own turf. Although Texas is not ranked in the preseason top 25 poll, they were toward the bottom part of a 28-team group of schools who received votes to be in the top 25 but did not quite make it.

Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour knows Tuesday will be a tough battle for his team.

“It will be different than anything we have seen or will see the rest of the year to be honest,” he said. “The whole thing is you usually want to go down there and try to play as hard as you can for as long as you can, try to stay in the game.”

After Friday’s exhibition victory over Eureka College, Spoonhour said one thing, for sure, that Eastern will have to be better at Tuesday is grabbing rebounds out of the air.

The Panthers outrebounded Eureka 61-36, but Spoonhour said Eastern let a lot of rebounds hit the floor.

“The rebounds we got, they were all pretty low,” Spoonhour said after Friday’s game. “They beat us to a lot of them. You talk about a different deal; now you’re going to go play maybe the biggest team in the country. You better get the ones that are down low against them because you’re not going to get any up above your shoulders.”

Texas has six players who are at least 6 feet 8 inches tall, and Eastern has three such players, in returning seniors Aboubacar Diallo and Lucas Jones, and Rade Kukobat, who transferred to Eastern from Vincennes University.

Dylan Osetkowski, one of Texas’ tall players, is also one of four returning players for the Longhorns who averaged double figures in scoring last season. Osetkowski averaged 13.4 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game last year.

The other three, Andrew Jones, Matt Coleman III and Kerwin Roach II, are guards. Jones averaged a team-high 13.5 points per game, Coleman averaged 10.2 and led the team with 139 assists, and Roach II averaged 12.3 and had the second-most assists (115).

Texas also landed the eighth-best recruiting class this year, according to 247Sports, including the No. 40 player in the 2018 recruiting class Courtney Ramey, a guard from St. Louis.

Eastern’s returning leading scorer is Mack Smith, who averaged 12.4 points per game last year. He also lead Eastern last year for his percentage of three pointers made (38.8 percent). 

Another thing Eastern will have to pay attention to during the game against Texas will be how the team meshes together, its cohesiveness, which is something Spoonhour said will constantly improve during the year. 

“Guys are getting used to playing together as a unit, so that will make it tough, but I think we’re capable of trying to play together,” he said. “You just have to steer clear of doing things that will give them easy baskets and make it hard on yourself. You have to make them earn everything they get because they’re going to get plenty of stuff.”

Eastern’s game against Texas will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]