Eastern showcases guard depth in 1st conference win

Blake Faith, Men's Basketball Reporter

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The depth of the Eastern men’s basketball team’s guards was evident in its 70-69 win against Jacksonville State for its first conference win of the season. 

The Panthers’ usual weapons of junior guards Josiah Wallace and Mack Smith were evident, but key spark plug moments from senior Shareef Smith and junior Kashawn Charles helped the Panthers stay undefeated in Lantz Arena.

“I think just in practice everyday knowing what each other can do and we’re starting to play a lot better with each other especially the returners from last year,” Wallace said. “This is our second year playing together and we know how each other plays. Also if one of us gets going the defense keys in on someone and that opens up someone else.”

Charles began his moments late in the first half. Charles came off the bench making stops on the defensive end and quickly scored five points to help the Panthers secure a 32-25 first-half lead. Charles finished the game with eight points.

“Kashawn’s numbers show what kind of shooter he is and people are not going to give him any easy ones,” said Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour. “So he’s gotta go try to find them (shots) however he can and there’s some of them for anybody else would be a bad shot. I’m telling you he needs to just be ready to fire whenever he gets in there and we need him to shoot when he gets in there.”

Shareef Smith began his moments in the second half. Smith ended an 11-0 run by Jacksonville State when Mack Smith passed out of an open shot and Shareef Smith dribbled right of the free-throw line, making a comfortable mid-range jumper. 

“The (three-point) streak is in Mack’s head a little bit and he’s thinking about it,” Spoonhour said. “There’s no humanly way possible for him not to think about it, but tonight he passed up the open look to Shareef. That’s a big-time deal when a guy does that when that’s on his mind.”

Despite his cold shooting night Mack Smith found ways to score with his driving abilities and free-throw shooting. He finished the game with 17 points and increased his consecutive game streak with a three-pointer made to 66.

Wallace started the season off in low-scoring figures, but he is heating up when the Panthers need him most. Wallace led all Panthers in scoring with 20 points against Jacksonville State and increased his conference scoring average to 20.4 points per game.

With the win the Panthers improve to 8-9 overall and 1-4 in conference play. The Panthers will play next against Tennessee Tech Saturday at 3:15 p.m in Lantz Arena .

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