Men’s basketball team falls to Redhawks on road


Zack Berger

JaQualis Matlock puts up a shot as a Murray State defender tries to block it during Eastern’s 83-61 loss in Lantz Arena Jan. 17.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

After the men’s basketball team’s 66-64 victory over Tennessee-Martin Thursday, head coach Jay Spoonhour told Mike Bradd and Jack Ashmore, Eastern’s sports commentators, that he did not think Eastern was much better than the OVC’s bottom teams.

Spoonhour said that even though Eastern was among the top five teams in the conference at that moment, he did not think there was much, if any, separation between his team and teams like Tennessee-Martin (6-13, 1-7) and Southeast Missouri (7-14, 2-6).

Spoonhour’s comments were backed up Saturday when Eastern (12-9, 5-3) faced Southeast Missouri on the road and lost 64-59.

Through the first few minutes of play, Eastern looked like it would have an easy win, building a 19-5 lead eight minutes into the game.

Josiah Wallace had everything working for him during that run and in the first half in general, scoring 10 of Eastern’s early 19 points and scoring 15 for the first half. He made 3-of-5 threes and made tough jump shots and layups to give Eastern a boost.

But shortly after Eastern’s early success, Southeast Missouri started pressuring more and higher defensively and made more and more stops that piled up on the Panthers.

Eastern has had trouble in the past when its opponent pressured the ball high in the half court, and since Eastern lives by three-pointers, not getting open shots takes its toll.

And the Redhawks did precisely that.

They pressured a lot higher when Eastern had the ball outside the three-point arc, making Eastern have to go further away from the basket to receive passes safely, and the Redhawks also played better on Eastern’s drives, not letting the Panthers get any easy points near the basket.

Neither team shot well in the game, nor did they not score consistently.

Points were rare to get at times, especially late in the game for Eastern, and most often the team who made just a couple shots and plays, which was Southeast Missouri down the stretch, took control just like that.

With 2:21 left in the game, Eastern had a 59-56 lead. Wallace had just thrown a lob pass at the rim to Rade Kukobat, who caught the pass mid-air and laid it in for two points.

After that point, Eastern committed three turnovers and Wallace missed two three-pointers while Southeast Missouri scored eight unanswered points to win.

Right after Kukobat’s alley-oop lay in, Southeast Missouri quickly went down, and Ledarrius Brewer, who has been thrust into a leadership role for the Redhawks, made a three-pointer to tie the game.

About a minute and a half later, Brewer dunked home a 61-59 lead for Southeast Missouri, two of his game-high 24 points.

The two plays that really sunk Eastern’s chances of tying the game or even winning it at the end of regulation were back-to-back turnovers with 29 seconds left that happened within five seconds of each other.

With 29 seconds left, Kukobat had the ball on the right wing and attempted a bounce pass to a cutting Shareef Smith, but the pass was too hard and hit Smith’s foot and kicked out of bounds.

Mack Smith fouled immediately on the inbound pass from Southeast Missouri, and Isaiah Gable left Eastern with a decent chance to still tie or win, missing one of his two free throws, leaving Eastern with 28 seconds and only down by three.

After Gable made the second free throw, Shareef Smith raced down the court with the ball toward the right wing, and when he ran into two defenders there, he spun away from them, toward the lane, but was out of control and got the ball stolen

The trouble Eastern has had this season is winning when the team does not shoot well. Saturday, the Panthers shot 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from three-point range, and since Eastern is not prolific at scoring inside, the issue remains of finding ways to win if the outside shooting is not there.

Before Saturday’s loss, Eastern was tied with Belmont for fourth place in OVC standings, behind Austin Peay, Jacksonville State and Murray State who were all tied for first. With the loss Saturday, Eastern is now in sole possession of fifth place.

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