Analysis: 3 key stats from Eastern’s opening road loss

Dillan Schorfheide, Sports Editor

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Considering the men’s basketball team faced last season’s national runner-up to open this season Tuesday, it is fair to say the Panthers’ 85-60 loss is not a true representation of them.

Despite that, there are some statistics from the game worthy of being noted for what they meant last season and what they could mean this season.

50

That is correct, Eastern’s Mack Smith continued his current, nation-leading streak of consecutive games with a made three-pointer.

At the end of last season, he sat at 49 straight games but made it 50 against Texas Tech Tuesday.

Smith was the second-leading scorer for the Panthers a year ago and is one of the key cogs in the offense.

While Smith will have his ups and downs shooting from beyond the arc, his ability to make threes, and clutch threes, is always a pick-me-up for the Panthers, especially when they are losing.

And when Smith is on fire from three-point range, the Panthers seem almost unbeatable.

Extending the streak would be quite a feat for Smith, but if it were to end, expect to see him still shooting away because that is his identity.

Not only is it his identity, but it is what helps the offense go.

What is so impressive about Smith’s streak, aside from the number itself, is that Smith has made his threes in different fashions and he is good at doing so.

He can catch-and-shoot, pull up off the dribble or spot up for an open shot.

No matter what, you can have the confidence that when you see the ball leave his fingertips, there is a good chance it will go in.

57.1

The Red Raiders shot 57.1 percent from three-point range against Eastern Tuesday, putting a problem Eastern faced last season on display early this season.

Granted, Texas Tech is a top-25 team in the country, but Eastern does not want to get beat by three-pointers like it did last year.

At OVC Media Day Oct. 22, Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour said that one of the things he wanted in recruiting, in the offseason, was players who could defend well.

Last season, Eastern had trouble defending the perimeter against ball handlers.

The main reason opponents enjoyed so much success from long range was because of kick-outs.

Eastern’s defenders had a hard time keeping ball handlers in front of them around the arc, which lead to an opponent getting to the lane easily and, if met with help defense, kicking a pass out to an awaiting shooter.

While getting beat initially at the perimeter is a big part of the problem, Eastern’s help defense is partly to blame.At times, a help defender would overcommit and give their mark too much space, or multiple Eastern players would collapse, leaving multiple shooters open for a shot or more ball movement.

The season is still young and Spoonhour said the new players to the team are athletic and should help defensively, so this issue is definitely on the to-watch list to see how it develops further along the schedule.

22

With Smith and All-OVC player Josiah Wallace headlining the starting lineup every night, it may be easy to think about where else the offensive production comes from for Eastern.

But last season, in fact, approximately 43.5 points per game for Eastern came from its starters, with the bench making up the other approximate 28.3 of Eastern’s average per game last season (71.8).

That is a pretty big bench contribution, an important one at that, but Eastern lost some of its bench production from last year.

Ben Harvey was third on the team last season with 10.2 points per game, coming off the bench in all except one game that he started. Just a few days ago, Rade Kukobat entered the transfer portal, and as a mixed starter and player who came off the bench last year, he averaged 7.6 points per game.

So the extra production for Eastern will be coming from new faces, or coming more from returning players like Kashawn Charles possibly.

Tuesday, though, Eastern’s 22 bench points was more than Texas Tech’s 21, a small victory for Eastern and a good sign that it will have that extra support.

Deang Deang came off the bench Tuesday and scored nine points, and Shareef Smith, Eastern’s fourth-leading scorer last season, had six points.

Despite only scoring three points, JaQualis Matlock is capable of scoring well in the post, and Charles, who only had two points, is capable of igniting for a big game and shooting well from three-point range.Braxton Shaw did not score Tuesday and only played in eight games last year due to injury, so his arsenal is still not exactly known.

The bench scoring showed up Tuesday, and for Eastern’s continued success this season, and expect, for the rest of the season, to see a lot of production for Eastern come from the bench.

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