Panther defense prospers in exhibition win

Blake Faith, Men's Basketball Reporter

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Karina Delgado | The Daily Eastern News
Junior guard Marvin Johnson looks to deliver a pass in Eastern’s 66-51 exhibition win agaisnt the University of Missouri-St. Louis on Wednseday night at Lantz Arena.

The men’s basketball team’s defense flourished in the last five and a half minutes of the game by recording five blocks and holding the University of Missouri St. Louis without a point in the last five and a half minutes of the game to secure a 66-51 exhibition win. The Panthers combined for 12 blocks and three steals for the game.

The Panther defense was ignited when senior forward JaQualis Matlock blocked a shot with four and a half minutes left in the game. Jordan Skipper-Brown and Marvin Johnson each blocked two shots to finish the game. Johnson led the team in blocks with five.

“They’re (Skipper-Brown and Johnson) both long and it’s hard to finish over them,” “Marvin’s going to get deflections and Skip’s a real vertical athlete. Marvin was the one who got the blocks tonight, but Skip’s going to get his share too. Marvin is a really good defensively out on the floor and can guard guys on the floor.”

In the first half, the Panthers jumped out in front 11-4 in the first seven minutes despite turning the ball over three times in the sequence. University of Missouri then started a 10-point run when their guard Kenny Berry hit a three pointer and took the lead 14-11 late in the first half.

In the last minutes of the first half, junior guard Josiah Wallace hit a mid-range jumper to bring the Panthers within two. Ten seconds later junior guard Deang Deang stole the ball and tied the game with a fast break dunk to make it 26-26.

“Deang and Skip (Jordan Skipper-Brown) really had a big impact on the game defensively,” Spoonhour said. “When Skip wasn’t in there they drove to the goal and there wasn’t much resistance, but there can be we just had guys on the offside who didn’t see it as well. I thought Deng did a really good job pressuring the ball.”

Berry then hit another three pointer to make the score 29-26 with 31 seconds left in the half. Wallace got the ball and drove right inside and released a floater that went in with the foul. Wallace missed the free throw for the first half score 29-28. Wallace finished the first with eight points.

In the second half, Wallace picked off right where he left off scoring off a midrange jumper 22 seconds into the second half. Right before the Panther defense started their control of the game Wallace knocked down a mid-range jumper to give the Panthers a 52-51 lead.

Wallace finished the game as the overall leading scorer with 19 points, six  from the field, and seven for eight from the free-throw line. Wallace acknowledged his ability to pick his opportunities to score, but knew there were times he drove the ball when he shouldn’t have.

“Last year I had to take a little bit more tough shots, but this year is not like that,” Wallace said. “Marvin is able to create for everyone which takes a lot of pressure off me and allows the defense not able to stand and guard me as much. It’s the first game of the season so we’re working the kinks out and it felt good to be out there and have our offense change around a little bit.”

The men’s basketball team will start their regular season on the road against 2018 NCAA Tournament runner-up Texas Tech. The game will be on Tuesday, Nov. 5th in Luboch, Texas.

Blake Faith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]