Men’s basketball hopes to bounce back Thursday after rough start to OVC play


The Daily Eastern News

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News Mack Smith (right) shouts directions to teammate George Dixon (left). Eastern defeated Green Bay 93-80 Dec. 7 in Lantz Arena.

Blake Faith, Men's Basketball Reporter

Eastern’s men’s basketball team is on a five-game losing streak with an 0-4 conference record from a long road stretch.

The timing of a home game against Jacksonville State is what the Panthers hope to capitalize on with their undefeated record at home this season.

Eastern hosts Jacksonville State Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Lantz Arena.

Eastern has not had a home game since Dec. 7 against Green Bay, which it won 93-80. Then the Panthers went on a seven-game road trip recording two wins and five losses.

During that road trip the Panthers lost their two-way leader on the floor in junior Deang Deang to an Achilles injury.

Prior to the injury, Deang emerged as a key player for the Panthers offensively and defensively for his playmaking abilities, defensive tenacity and communication skills. Since the absence of Deang, the Panthers went 1-5.

Jacksonville State comes in with a conference record of 2-2, an overall record of 7-10 and are on a two-game losing streak. Jacksonville State has two scorers that average double figures in sophomore De’Torrion Ware (12.2 points per game) and senior Jacara Cross (11.5 points per game).

“Winning games away from home is never easy, but we still need to play extremely well to beat Jacksonville,” Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour said. “Simply being at home won’t do it.”

Eastern’s overall record is 7-9, but they have four scorers that average double-figures in scoring: Juniors George Dixon (12.8 ppg), Mack Smith (12.6 ppg), Josiah Wallace (12.1 ppg) and Marvin Johnson (10.6 ppg).

Dixon also is second in the OVC statistics leaders in rebounds per game with 8.8.

“It’s important for individual guys to understand the urgency of the situation, without losing focus on the job they have to do,” Spoonhour said. “The simple fact is we need to play better and each guy just needs to do a little more…not a lot more.”

The Panthers have found a resurgence from their offensive weapon and 2018 leading scorer in Wallace. Wallace started the season slow, but in the last five games he averaged 20 points per game including a season-high, and career-high, 32 points against Tennessee State.

Last season Jacksonville State won both games against Eastern. In Jacksonville State’s home game the Gamecocks won 69-62.

At Lantz Arena the Panthers competed in a close double-overtime loss with the final score 89-84. In that game Smith and Wallace led the Panthers in scoring with Smith scoring 24 points and Wallace scoring 23.

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