Longhorns sink men’s basketball team 71-59

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JJ Bullock

Eastern junior guard Shareef Smith plays defense on a Eureka ball handler in the Panthers’ 79-44 win in Lantz Arena on Nov. 2.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

Josiah Wallace stopped the bleeding for the men’s basketball team going into halftime.

But even though his shot clotted the wound at that point in time, Texas carried momentum into an early second half run to pull away from Eastern for a 71-59 victory.

The Texas Longhorns were on a 15-point run from when there was 3:34 left in the first half to the point where there were seven seconds left.

But Wallace quickly dribbled the ball up to a manageable spot for a shot after a Texas basket, spun around, put it up and banked in the three with .3 seconds left on the clock to keep Eastern’s deficit to a manageable 38-28.

For much of the first half, Eastern was right there with the Longhorns. 

Until the scoring run late in the half by Texas, Eastern trailed by two points at the most (the opening basket by Texas), and lead by as much as four points.

Rade Kukobat helped start the Panther offense, hitting a three in response to Texas’ opening basket and then making two free throws to give Eastern a 5-4 lead after another Longhorn basket.

The toughest challenge for Eastern in the first half was breaking the Longhorn press, which forced Eastern to commit approximately four turnovers in about five minutes.

“There’s no way to duplicate Texas press, just based on their sheer size and speed,” head coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We didn’t handle it very well. We got better as the game went on, but it was definitely the difference in the game.”

Even with those turnovers, the Panthers fought to stay in the game, and what helped was that Eastern outrebounded Texas in the first half 16-15.

Kukobat and Mack Smith each had five points in the first half, and JaQualis Matlock lead Eastern with eight points and four rebounds, which also lead the Panthers in the half.

But after the halftime break, the Longhorns continued to roll and dominated all facets of the game. 

The 15-point run was what hurt Eastern the most, as it carried momentum for Texas into the second half, in which the Longhorns outscored Eastern 33-31.

Even though Eastern only scored two less points than Texas in the second half, the Longhorns opened the half on a 17-8 streak in the first eight and a half minutes.

One thing Spoonhour said would be important for Eastern going into the game is that his team would have to rebound well, and after outrebounding Texas in the first half, the Panthers only had one less rebound than the Longhorns (35-34).

Kukobat led Eastern in scoring with 12 points, and led the Panthers with seven rebounds. Mack Smith also scored in the double digits, with 11 points. The other leading scorers were Shareef Smith and Matlock with eight points each. Matlock did not score in the second half.

Matt Coleman III lead Texas with 13 points, followed by Jaxson Hayes who had 12, and Jase Febres, Dylan Osetkowski and Elijah Mitrou-Long scored nine points.

As a team, Eastern shot 35.7 percent from the field overall, and 26.1 percent from three-point range. 

“Texas is just an outstanding defensive team,” Spoonhour said. “It was tough to get a clean look. I thought we had some moments that were pretty good offensively. I think, on the whole, they pushed us out on the floor and made it difficult to get anything easy.”

Texas shot 50 percent from the field and 32 percent from three-point range. Eastern did shoot better from the free throw line, 72.2 percent compared to Texas’ 55 percent.

Offensively, Eastern only had five assists as a team. The Panthers also committed more turnovers than Texas, 19-16.

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