Breaking down Wallace’s scoring outburst

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Dillan Schorfheide

Shareef Smith guards a Western Illinois ball handler during the Panthers’ 68-66 victory on Nov. 17 in Lantz Arena. Smith was Eastern’s second-leading scorer with 12 points.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

Before Josiah Wallace’s career weekend for Eastern, the first glimpse anyone got of his ability to score in an Eastern uniform was in the Panthers’ exhibition game against Eureka.

Wallace led every player in the game with 23 points, and while Eureka is not exactly a Belmont or Murray State-level opponent, the way Wallace scored was indicative of what he has worked toward.

He scored by driving to the basket, knocking down jump shots and making three-pointers.

Now, looking back at Eastern’s trip to North Carolina for the Battle in the Blue Ridge tournament, he led Eastern for scoring in every game, scoring 22, 31 and 19 points in three games (24 point-per-game average).

And he did it by driving to the basket, knocking down jump shots and making three-pointers. His overall scoring average for the season jumped to 17 points per game from his tournament performance.

“I think in the first game, we just kind of came out slow so I tried to get the team going,” Wallace said, regarding his 22-point performance against Gardner-Webb. “But my teammates put me in positions to score and get me going.”

For the tournament, Wallace shot 55 percent overall, 57 percent from three-point range and 73 percent from the free throw line.

On top of that, he was the main driving force behind Eastern’s game 2 win over Arkansas State.

He scored 31 points, his career high, all in the second half and overtime, including 10 points in the last three and a half minutes of the second half and the game-tying shot with two seconds left in the game.

After sending the game into overtime, Wallace scored 10 of Eastern’s 13 points in extra time to help the Panthers earn its third win of the season.

His tournament performance earned him the honors of the OVC Newcomer of the Week.

When asked if he sees himself as a leading scorer going forward for Eastern, he said maybe.

“That’s not really my main focus,” Wallace said. “I think my main focus is just to do what it takes to win, what the team needs me to do. If the team needs me to do that I I’ll do that, but my favorite thing to do is get my teammates involved, find the open man.”

Wallace has been one of the primary ball handlers for Eastern thus far, with his scoring ability being showcased more recently. 

Both head coach Jay Spoonhour and game announcers have mentioned the growth of Wallace’s ability to score over the radio.

They have talked about how Wallace improved his offensive skillset during his time at Olney Central College, where he ranked 15th in the nation in scoring with a 21.2 point-per-game average last year.

“I think last year at Olney Central that’s where I kind of gained my scoring mentality a little more,” Wallace said. “The level of competition just pushed me and I had to find more ways to score. The biggest thing I needed to do was improve my jump shot.”

Wallace added that he kept working on his shooting during the offseason and he has continued to improve and work on his jump shot.

So far, Wallace has been the leading scorer for Eastern in four of the Panthers’ six games (the last four in a row), and he has scored in double figures in five of the games, only scoring in single digits (5 points) in the season-opener against Texas.

He also leads Eastern with 13 assists this season.

Coming off his great weekend, Wallace leads Eastern into Wednesday’s home game against Fort Wayne. The Mastodons are 4-4 so far this season.

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