Men’s basketball faces Tennessee-Martin Thursday in revenge game

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The Daily Eastern News

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News George Dixon hangs on the rim as he slams down a two-handed dunk. Eastern defeated Tennessee Tech 84-59 Jan. 18 in Lantz Arena.

Blake Faith, Men's Basketball Reporter

After winning its first two conference games, the Eastern men’s basketball team will face Tennessee-Martin Thursday in the third game of a four-game home stretch for the Panthers.

Last season Eastern went 2-1 against Tennessee-Martin with all three games ending with five-point differences. Eastern won both regular season games, but the Skyhawks knocked Eastern out of the OVC Tournament in the first round.

With that recent history becoming fresh in people’s memories with the Thursday matchup, Eastern senior forward JaQualis Matlock said it is a revenge game.

“I’d kind of say it is, that’s the last game we played last year, stopped us from advancing to the next round, so I guess we’ll take it a little personally,” he said.

Tennessee-Martin is 1-5 in conference play with an overall record of 5-12, including a 1-6 record on the road. Its lone conference win came against fourth-place Tennessee State, but their losses come against three top seeds in Murray State, Austin Peay and Belmont.

The Skyhawks, however, have the second-and-third-leading scorers in the conference in Parker Stewart (19.7 points per game) and Quintin Dove (18.3 points per game). Dove is also fifth in the OVC in rebounds per game with 7.7.

Along with those two, Tennessee-Martin has one other scorer who averages in double-figures: Derek Hawthorne Jr., who averages 14.1 points per game.

There is a stark dropoff in offensive production, though, as the next highest scorer averages 8.2 points per game.

Offensively, the Skyhawks are one of the best scoring teams in the conference, averaging 76.3 points per game (fourth-best in the conference).

At the same time, though, Tennessee-Martin also gives up the most points to opponents in the conference (last place in the OVC, giving up 83.5 points per game).

The Panthers improved to 2-4 in conference play with an overall record of 9-9, including a 5-0 record at home. The Panthers have outscored their opponents an average of 31.2 points per game at home with only their win against Jacksonville State being a single-digit win.

The Panthers have three scorers averaging double figures in juniors George Dixon, Mack Smith and Josiah Wallace. Smith leads the Panthers in scoring with 12.7 points per game, and Dixon is second in the conference with 8.5 rebounds per game.

Smith also comes in with his streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer made at 67 games. His streak is third all-time in NCAA history.

Junior Kashawn Charles has played well during this homestand, taking the advice from Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour to look for his shots on offense.

Against Jacksonville State, Charles recorded eight points, one assist and a steal in eight minutes of play. Against Tennessee Tech Charles scored a team-high 23 points while shooting 9-of-12 from the field and 5-of-8 from the three-point line.

“I really like how Kashawn has been playing,” Spoonhour said. “The scoring is obviously what attracts the attention, but he’s limited his mistakes and he’s guarding really well.  That allows you to remain on the floor.”

Tennessee-Martin opponents shoot on average 40.6 percent and allow 10.6 three-pointers made per game.

The Panthers currently average 34.5 percent and 6.7 three-pointers made per game. In the last two games the Panthers have shot 48 percent from the three-point line and averaged 16 assists.

“I’d like to see us continue to share the ball,” Spoonhour said. “At different points during the year we’ve gotten away from that. We are a much better team when we look for each other.”

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