Men’s basketball loses 4th straight OVC game

Blake Faith, Men's Basketball Reporter

The Daily Eastern News
Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News
Forward JaQualis Matlock throws a pass in Eastern’s 93-80 win against Green Bay Dec. 7th at Lantz Arena.

Eastern’s men’s basketball team’s inability to hit shots during a six-minute stretch and a Morehead State 12-0 run late in the second half caused the Panthers to lose their lead and the game 69-66.

Junior Josiah Wallace led the Panthers in scoring with 17 points.

With less than 13 minutes left in the second half, the Panthers led the Eagles 52-46 after junior Mack Smith nailed a mid-range jumper. The six-minute stretch began right after the Panthers failed to make any shots, besides four free throws.

The Eagles took advantage of the Panthers’ cold spell by scoring three times inside the paint, hitting one free throw and making a mid-range jumper to tie the game at 55-55. A made free throw from junior George Dixon and Wallace turning a steal into a mid-range jumper gave the Panthers a 58-55 lead.

With less than five and a half minutes left in the game, the Eagles countered and went on a 12-0 run against the Panthers to push their lead to 67-58.

Despite the Panthers only committing one turnover in that time frame, the Panthers faced another cold spell, failing to hit another shot. Dixon scored a layup to bring the Panthers to within seven with less than a minute left in the game.

The Panthers were able to bring themselves within one point with 14 seconds left when junior Marvin Johnson drove to the paint and converted a layup. The Panthers were forced to foul, and Morehead State made both of their free throws.

With five seconds left in the game, the Panthers’ last attempt for a victory was thwarted when Johnson turned the ball over in the closing seconds.

“We have come up empty on too many makeable plays around the basket,” head coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We have to do a better job defensively.  The loss of (Deang) Deang has had an impact on our perimeter pressure, but we’ve got capable guys, and we just need to get a little more done.”

Junior Deang Deang has not played in a game since Dec. 14 when he suffered an Achilles injury that ended his season. Deang emerged as a two-way leader for the Panthers with his defensive tenacity, communication skills and offensive potency as a ball handler and playmaker.

His injury leaves a void in the Panthers’ offense and defense.

The Panthers’ loss increases their losing streak to five straight games, and four of those are conference losses. The Panthers are currently 7-9 with an 0-4 conference record.

The Panthers will return to Lantz Arena for the first time since Dec. 7 to face Jacksonville State. The Panthers currently are undefeated at home with a 3-0 record.

“This has definitely been a rough stretch for us, and being back home will help to an extent,” Spoonhour said. “But there are certain things you must do to win regardless of where the game is played.”

The men’s basketball team will face Jacksonville State at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

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