Men’s basketball team wins 2 of 3 in tournament


JJ Bullock

Kashawn Charles rises up for a jump shot as a defender puts a hand in his face during Eastern’s 79-44 win over Eureka College on Nov. 2 in Lantz Arena.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern men’s basketball team finished the Battle in the Blue Ridge tournament in Asheville, N.C. with a 2-1 record, bringing the team’s overall record to 3-3.

Josiah Wallace was the spark for Eastern during the tournament, leading the team in scoring in all three games and becoming the Panthers’ overall leading scorer.

Wallace had his best game in Eastern’s second tournament game. 

He did not score at all in the first half, but scored 31 points, his career high, all in the second half and overtime.

The Panthers trailed Arkansas State in that second tournament game at halftime, 32-24. 

Eastern trailed by as much as 12 points with 15:18 left in the second half, but with around three and a half minutes left in the second half, Eastern made the game close.

Wallace and JaQualis Matlock scored eight points and five points, respectively, over the next two minutes as Wallace gave Eastern the lead with 1:10 left in the game on a three-point play.

Wallace was not done with the clutch play for Eastern, because after Arkansas State made two free throws over the next minute, Wallace made a shot in the lane with two seconds left in the game to tie it at 77 all and send the game into overtime.

Wallace went on to score 10 points in overtime to help Eastern secure a 90-86 victory for its second win of the tournament. 

Mack Smith was the second-leading scorer for Eastern with 14 points, and Rade Kukobat was the other Eastern player in double-digit scoring with 13 points.

The Panthers opened the tournament with a victory over Gardner-Webb, 79-78, in another game where Eastern had to come behind for the win.

Eastern trailed by less of a margin at halftime (38-37) than it did against Arkansas State, but opposite of the Arkansas State game, the Panthers led for most of the second half. 

It was Arkansas State who made a comeback and almost stole a win.

Gardner-Webb led for only about three minutes in the second half, until it took the lead with eight seconds left when David Efianayi made a jumper and gave his team a 78-77 lead.

Kukobat was the hero for eastern in the first game of the tournament, making two free throws with three seconds left after being fouled.

Kukobat was the third-leading scorer for Eastern in the game with 12 points, which is about his average for the season. 

Wallace led eastern with 22 points, Mack Smith had 13 points as the second-leading scorer and Kashawn Charles had 11 points on 4-4 shooting, including 3-3 from three-point range.

The Panthers did not have as much luck coming from behind Sunday in its third and final game of the tournament, a 82-65 loss to UNC Wilmington.

UNC Wilmington lead for the entirety of the game, getting its biggest lead of the game with 6:10 left in the second half (76-50). 

The closest Eastern got was within one point, 26-25, in the first half with 6:02 left, when Wallace hit a three-pointer.

Wallace led eastern in the loss with 19 points, and Ben Harvey was the only other Panther in double figures with 12 points. 

UNC Wilmington was likely Eastern’s toughest opponent out of the three, as the Seahawks have last year’s nation-leading rebounder (and one of this year’s leaders too) in Devontae Cacok. 

The Seahawks also have Kai Toews, who was a member of the Olympic qualifying Japan National Team.

Toews had 10 points and led UNC Wilmington with 14 assists, and Cacok was the second-leading scorer with 17 points and led the team in rebounding with 13.

Eastern’s next game is Wednesday, when the Panthers host Fort Wayne at 7 p.m. in Lantz Arena.

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