Jacksonville State downs men’s basketball team 89-84 in double overtime


JJ Bullock | The Daily Eastern News Eastern Aboubacar Diallo and Rade Kukobat try and grab the rebound from Josiah Wallace’s missed potential game winning shot at the end of regulation Thursday night against Jacksonville State. Eastern ended up losing 89-84 in double overtime.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern men’s basketball team looked to have command en route to a needed win over Jacksonville State Thursday, but lost in double overtime 89-84.

Eastern (14-16, 7-10) only made three field goals in the rest of the game after Mack Smith, who led Eastern with his season-high 24 points, made a 19-foot jump shot with 4:20 left in the game.

Eastern’s offense became stagnant toward the end of the game, one reason the Panthers only scored three baskets in the last 14:20 of the game.

“We got it at the basket and didn’t finish it,” said Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour. “There were some really bad possessions where we just stood, couldn’t get anything, ended with a terrible shot.”

Eastern made 13-of-16 free throws in the rest of the game, but the good free-throw shooting did not save the Panthers from Jacksonville State’s inside presence.

Jacksonville State (22-8, 14-3) came back after trailing by 11 with seven minutes left in the game to send the game into overtime.

A lot of the points the Gamecocks scored in the deciding minutes in the overtime periods came from inside the paint, where they scored 36 of their points on the night.

Eastern and Jacksonville State played to their respective strengths in the first half, trading baskets and keeping the game close with a 30-29 Gamecock lead at half.

The Gamecocks are known for their size and defensive prowess, while Eastern is a team that often lives and dies by the three-point shot.

Eastern stayed alive with three-pointers in the first half, and Jacksonville State, after a slow start, started to use its size to score around Eastern’s defense.

Eastern shot 5-of-10 from three-point range in the first half, and the Gamecocks scored 18 of their 30 points in the paint.

The Panthers jumped out to a 13-4 start, as Mack Smith lead the way with eight points during that span. He finished with a then game-high 10 points at halftime.

Smith made two threes to put Eastern up 6-2 two minutes into the game, adding a 16-foot jump shot off a curl to the left wing four and a half minutes into the game to put Eastern’s score to 13.

His three-pointer just 27 seconds into the game, the opening basket of the game as well, extends his streak of consecutive games with a made three-point attempt to 47.

After that point, the Gamecocks scored 14 points in the paint, including four made shots from post-ups of Eastern defenders.

Even though the Panthers, mainly JaQualis Matlock and Aboubacar Diallo, played good post defense, Jacksonville State’s established reputation as a big team showed itself as players like Jason Burnell and Jacara Cross were able to make tough post shots with Eastern defenders in their face.

Burnell finished the night 26 points and 14 rebounds, tearing up Eastern inside, most importantly in overtime.

The Panthers used a hybrid 1-3-1 zone/man-to-man defense for a majority of the first half, something they worked on in practice during the week.

The defense worked well at first, but Eastern switched to straight man-to-man past the 10-minute mark, which had about the same result as the hybrid 1-3-1.

“I thought defensively we were good,” Spoonhour said. “I didn’t have an issue with that too much, maybe in the first half a little bit they got the ball around the goal a little bit too much on us.”

Mack Smith did his best to keep Eastern’s chance of wining alive, making two of the three final baskets for Eastern.

He finished the night 4-of-7 from three-point range, 9-of-15 overall on the night.

“I’ve been in kind of a shooting slump, but I just keep working at it,” he said. “The guys know I’m a shooter, and they keep finding me.”

Eastern’s loss means that it is still tied for fifth place with Morehead State, who also lost Thursday. Only a Morehead State loss Saturday and an Eastern win will give Eastern the five seed in the OVC tournament next week because Morehead State has the tiebreaker.

Aboubacar Diallo also recorded one block in the game, his 100th career block. That ties him for second on Eastern’s all-time list.

Eastern hosts Tennessee Tech Saturday at 3:15 p.m. for senior night and the conclusion of the regular season.

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