Panthers’ 2nd half run sinks Western Illinois

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

Saturday was Western Illinois’ chance to avenge a close 68-66 overtime loss to Eastern in Lantz Arena on Nov. 17.

Eastern (5-5) won in a not-so-convincingly way, having to fight its way to a tie score during regulation time and narrowly escaping with the victory over the Leathernecks (4-6).

Ben Harvey was a big part of Eastern’s win then, and he, among other panthers, were important parts of Eastern’s season sweep over Western with a 74-67 victory in Macomb Saturday night.

In the Nov. 17 matchup, Harvey was the one who tied the game at 60 points apiece before the end of regulation with a free throw, and he was the one who made a put back shot with 37 seconds left in overtime to give Eastern a 67-66 lead.

He ended that game with his first double-double of his college career, 11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

Saturday, he was one of three Panthers with double-digit scoring, and he was the second-leading rebounder with six rebounds. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half. 

Josiah Wallace led Eastern Saturday with 16 points, all in the second half, including four free throws (7-of-7 on the night) in the last 19 seconds of the game to help secure the victory. Wallace is Eastern’s leading scorer this season, averaging 16.5 points per game.

Mack Smith was the other Panther who scored in double figures with 14 points. He only scored two in the second half, but his 12 in the first half kept the Panthers within a decent distance to stay in the game.

In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Western led at halftime by four points.

Saturday, Western had more dominance in the first half and led 38-29 at half.

With 6:52 left before halftime, the Leathernecks took control and closed the half with a 21-6 run.

Five Leathernecks scored in the run, lead by Kobe Webster, the team’s leading scorer who averages 17.5 points per game, who had nine of the points off three three-pointers. Webster had a game-high 17 points.

The earliest point in which Eastern did not trail by double digits was with 11:46 left in the second half, when Harvey hit a three-pointer.

Ben Harvey would continue to make big shots for the Panthers in the following minutes.

He tied the game at 49 all with 7:46 left, and he gave Eastern a 52-49 lead 50 seconds later with his second three-pointer of the game.

From that point on, Eastern never surrendered the lead again and led Western by as much as 12.

The Panthers also took the lead in the two schools’ all-time matchup record, boasting a one-game advantage over Western with an 82-81 record.

Eastern will stay busy over the holiday break with five games scheduled. The last two games over the break will mark the beginning of the conference season for Eastern, as the Panthers host Tennessee-Martin to open the conference season on Jan. 3 and host Southern Illinois Edwardsville Jan. 5.

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