Men’s basketball to visit Murray State Thursday in rematch


Zack Berger | The Daily Eastern News Eastern freshman Cam Burrell shoots a jumper in the Panthers’ 83-61 loss to Murray State Jan. 17 in Lantz Arena. Eastern travels to Murray State Thursday.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

The last time the Eastern men’s basketball team faced Murray State, it was on Eastern’s home court.

Murray State star and top-five draft prospect Ja Morant had one vicious dunk and a reverse layup that seemed to hang in the air forever but fell straight through the net: swish.

The dunk made the No. 1 spot in ESPN’s Sportcenter’s top-10 plays Jan. 17, the same night of the game, and the layup was in the No. 5 spot.

Eastern lost the home game 83-61, on a night when Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour said he thought his team played pretty well.

Morant went 11-16 shooting overall in the game, including shooting 80 percent (4-5) from three-point range.

Shaq Buchanan added 17 points of his own, and KJ Williams had 14 points and 16 rebounds.

Eastern had three double-digit scorers of its own: Mack Smith had 22 points, Shareef Smith had 13 points and Rade Kukobat had 12 points.

Since then, both teams have had similar records in their respective conference schedules.

Eastern has gone 3-2, and so has Murray State.

Both teams have also had bad losses in that stretch.

Murray State lost to Belmont at home by 13 and lost to Jacksonville State on the road by 20.

The Bruins and Gamecocks are both good teams, but Murray State was hyped up enough for everyone to believe it would win both games.

Eastern lost to Southeast Missouri by five points on the road after having early control and committing a late turnover that cost it any chances to come back at the end of regulation.

Then, against Morehead State Saturday, the same situation unfolded as Eastern lost 84-78.

Thursday’s game between the two on Murray State’s home court is a chance for both to get back on track and gain as much momentum as possible for the final stretch before the conference tournament.

One aspect of Murray State’s style that hurt Eastern was its ability to move the ball quickly on offense.

Eastern assistant coach Tone Boyle said defending a fast-paced offense like that is a focus and anticipation thing.

“You have to make your decisions quicker,” he said. “You got to learn to anticipate stuff faster. Really, in basketball, it’s a quarter-step or a half-step between a made three or a blocked three.”

Since the Murray State game, Boyle said he thinks the team has done a good job and has not allowed another offensive game like that.

Other than that, Boyle said the team just needs to stick with what is has been doing so far.

Eastern tips off at Murray State at 7 p.m. Thursday.

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