Mayo, Eastern Kentucky coming to Lantz Arena


Zack Berger

Eastern’s Aboubacar Diallo gets ready to leap for the opening tip in the Panthers’ 83-61 loss to Murray State on Jan. 17. Eastern hosts Eastern Kentucky on Thursday.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

Eastern Kentucky comes into Lantz Arena Thursday to face the host Eastern, and although the Colonels are 3-5 in OVC play, they present a big threat to Eastern.

That big threat is Nick Mayo.

Sitting in the lane at 6 feet, 9 inches and weighing 250 lbs, he has been arguably the most athletic big man in the OVC and can post up against anyone in the conference,

He has been the only OVC player to be ahead of Ja Morant for the honor of the OVC’s leading scorer (Morant has taken back the No. 1 spot), and for the season, he averages 23.3 points per game, second in the conference.

Mayo also averages 8.1 rebounds per game, tied for fifth-best in the conference. He also leads the conference in free throw percentage, 87.7 percent, and he is second in the conference with 1.9 blocks per game.

Needless to say, although Eastern is a heavy three-point shooting team, the inside battle will be an important factor for either team to win.

Eastern has had its troubles this season with scoring and defending inside, but players like Cam Burrell and Aboubacar Diallo have been playing better inside.

Then against Tennessee-Martin and Southeast Missouri last week, JaQualis Matlock stepped up his play from the rest of the season so far and was a big factor for Eastern inside, scoring 23 total points and grabbing 13 total rebounds.

Against Southeast Missouri, he was one rebound short of a double-double.

“I think I took my time with going up and trying to finish around the goal, instead of rushing, and it came to me,” Matlock said.

Prior to the two games, Matlock only started eight previously and averaged 3.8 points per game. Now he averages a whole point more than that, 4.8, while also grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game.

Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour, after the 66-64 win over Tennessee-Martin, said Matlock had a good week at practice and that is why he started him.

“I just came (to practice) with a better attitude, and with a lot more energy, and put more effort out there when we were going through the drills,” Matlock said.

Matlock is not just an inside finisher, though. Despite his three-point shooting percentage of 30 percent, he can step out and knock down an open three when least expected.

Regarding the game plan against Mayo, Matlock said he has heard that Mayo is a good player.

“I’ll just try my best to do whatever I can to slow him down,” Matlock said. “He’s a good player, it will be a good challenge, I like a challenge.”

Eastern Kentucky is currently seventh in the conference, but with Mayo leading the way, the Colonels got a blowout 88-70 win against Jacksonville State, who was undefeated in conference play and beat Belmont twice, at home Jan. 24.

The contest between Eastern and Eastern Kentucky is set to start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

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