Wallace’s three gives Eastern 66-64 win over Skyhawks


Karina Delgado

Eastern’s Josiah Wallace plays defense in an 85-83 win over Austin Peay Jan. 19. Wallace hit a three-point shot with 12 seconds to play to give Eastern a 66-64 win over Tennessee-Martin Thursday night.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

The phrase goes that cats have nine lives, and it would seem as though the Panthers are a living embodiment of the phrase.

Eastern (12-8, 5-2) defeated Tennessee-Martin (5-13, 0-7) 66-64, after trailing by as much as 12 points at halftime.

The win is the ninth time this season Eastern has won after trailing by nine points during a game, and Eastern is now 8-7 when trailing at half time.

Josiah Wallace turned out to be the hero in the moment, scoring Eastern’s last eight points in the last 2:17 of regulation, including two threes, the second of which was a step-back shot that gave Eastern the 66-64 lead for the win with 12 seconds left.

But the Panther who perhaps had just as much, if not more of an impact was JaQualis Matlock.

Matlock had only started eight games prior to Thursday’s contest, but he was inserted into the starting lineup and he had a scoring streak in the second half that helped Eastern get back into the game.

The Panthers trailed 39-27 at halftime, and opening the second half, Matlock had his own six-point run in the first two and a half minutes to bring Eastern to within six points.

“I’m happy for (Matlock),” said head coach Jay Spoonhour. “He’s had a tough time getting the ball to go in.”

Tennessee-Martin would extend its lead to 44-34 another two and a half minutes later, but Matlock’s scoring helped Eastern establish a contingency inside that would help the Panthers later in the half.

Eastern only had eight points in the paint in the first half and was bullied around inside, rebounding wise, as the Skyhawks had 10 offensive rebounds and seven second-chance points.

“They’re just a really good offensive rebounding team, and we didn’t do a good job keeping them off (the glass) in the first half,” Spoonhour said.

The Panthers toughened up in the second half, though, and finished with only three fewer offensive rebounds (21-18) and outrebounded the Skyhawks 42-40.

Matlock finished the game with 13 points and four rebounds, and Cam Burrell, who helped Matlock fight inside, finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

Burrell made a fast-break dunk with 10:28 left in the game, to give eastern a 47-46 lead, its first lead since there was 14:08 left in the first half.

Wallace had 17 points, 12 of them coming in the second half, and Mack Smith was the fourth Panther who scored in double figures with 14. Smith made three of his four three-pointers in the first five and a half minutes of the game.

The third three Smith made was his 100th of his career, and he is riding a 37-game streak of making a three-pointer, the longest Eastern streak ever and the longest current OVC streak.

Aboubacar Diallo had two blocks in the game, and he only needs three more to tie Muusa Dama for third all-time in Eastern’s career block list.

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