Men’s basketball team focused on improvement on both sides of ball

Eastern+junior+guard+Shareef+Smith+goes+up+for+a+layup+in+the+Panthers%E2%80%99+104-60+loss+to+Fort+Wayne+on+Nov.+28+in+Lantz+Arena.+Eastern+hosts+Fontbonne+University+Tuesday+night+in+Lantz+Arena.
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Men’s basketball team focused on improvement on both sides of ball

Eastern junior guard Shareef Smith goes up for a layup in the Panthers’ 104-60 loss to Fort Wayne on Nov. 28 in Lantz Arena. Eastern hosts Fontbonne University Tuesday night in Lantz Arena.

Eastern junior guard Shareef Smith goes up for a layup in the Panthers’ 104-60 loss to Fort Wayne on Nov. 28 in Lantz Arena. Eastern hosts Fontbonne University Tuesday night in Lantz Arena.

Bryan Bund

Eastern junior guard Shareef Smith goes up for a layup in the Panthers’ 104-60 loss to Fort Wayne on Nov. 28 in Lantz Arena. Eastern hosts Fontbonne University Tuesday night in Lantz Arena.

Bryan Bund

Bryan Bund

Eastern junior guard Shareef Smith goes up for a layup in the Panthers’ 104-60 loss to Fort Wayne on Nov. 28 in Lantz Arena. Eastern hosts Fontbonne University Tuesday night in Lantz Arena.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

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For two straight games, defense, or the lack thereof, has been a key talking point for Jay Spoonhour and his team.

The Eastern men’s basketball team’s head coach said after a 104-60 loss to Fort Wayne Wednesday that the Panthers were constantly in help on defense.

This led him to say that his players need to stay in front of their marks better, a sentiment that he has repeated since the preseason.

Help defense is a necessary part of basketball, but when opponents are getting around Eastern defenders the way they have recently, and, as with Fort Wayne, if Eastern is getting out of position too much to help, the Panthers need to find the fine line between the two.

Eastern forward Braxton Shaw said part of finding that fine line is communication.

“It just takes talking, we got to talk to each other and it takes more experience, more repetitions in practice,” Shaw said. “It’s a new defense, and we’re trying to learn it on the fly, so it’ll just take more repetitions.”

Then after an 80-72 loss to Chicago State Saturday, the “obvious” problem Spoonhour said the team has to get corrected is its defensive field goal percentage, staying in front of people better and forcing more contested shots.

“I just feel like it takes a mental focus on our part,” forward Braxton Shaw said. “I feel like we are too lackadaisical on the defensive end.”

Shaw added that a strong defensive mentality would also help the team defend inside better. Chicago State scored half of its points in the paint Saturday, and Fort Wayne nearly doubled Eastern’s rebounding total (50-27), which included 14 offensive rebounds.

On the offensive side of the ball, jump shots have been hurting the Panthers recently.

More specifically, Spoonhour has said that the team has been relying too much on jump shots.

Against Fort Wayne, Eastern only had 18 points in the paint out of its 60 overall and shot 23-69 overall, and 8-28 from three-point range.

Against Chicago State, Eastern scored 22 of its 72 points in the paint, and shot 24-62 overall, 10-33 from three-point range.

“We got to have better motion, better motion and come to the ball,” guard Mack Smith said.

In tune with the statistics from the last couple games, Spoonhour said after the Chicago State loss that his team did not get enough lay-ins.

“We have a lot of plays that we have to execute on, so once we execute them, get into the post and most importantly we just got to finish through the play,” Smith said.

Eastern will have a good opportunity to polish the things it has been working on, as the Panthers host Fontbonne University Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Griffins are a Division III school out of St. Louis.

Fontbonne is 3-3 so far this season, with its best win coming against Moddy Bible 108-39. The Griffins’ worst loss was to Marian, 105-57.

Fontbonne is averaging 78.2 points per game so far, on 50.1 percent shooting from the field, including 38.8 percent from three-point range.

The Griffins’ two double-digit scorers are Luke DeLine, who leads the team with 21 points per game, and Jared Woodcock, who is second on the team with a 17.2 scoring average.

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