Eastern hangs on late for win over Southeast Missouri


Eastern point guard Shareef Smith dribbles through a Southeast Missouri defender in the Panthers 61-59 win Saturday in Lantz Arena.

Vince Lovergine, Men's basketball reporter

In a game that could have easily slipped away, somehow the Eastern men’s basketball team just escaped Southeast Missouri 61-59, Saturday.

The Redhawks were inbounding down 61-59 with 8.6 seconds left to go, and Marvin
Johnson deflected an attempted inbound, but the whistle blew with no clear indication why. After review, it was determined there was an insufficient whistle because the ball never went out of bounds.
So, it’s considered a jump ball and the possession arrow was to Eastern’s advantage.

Shareef Smith was fouled immediately when the possession changed to Eastern, but he missed both free throws to solidify a win, but Alex Caldwell threw up a last gasp for Southeast Missouri and it came up short. Now, Eastern improves to 11-9 on the season, with that four-game win streak.

“They had more life, more energy, SEMO did, then we did,” Head coach Jay Spoonhour said. “I just thought we were a little slow starting the game had some spurts where we looked okay, but we never did quite get playing the way we need to.”

Meanwhile, the Redhawks remain winless at 0-8 in the conference and 4-17 overall.
Alex Caldwell led all scorers with 20 points and the next closest for Southeast Missouri was Jordan Love having eight off the bench.

Eastern started the game an 8-0 run, but the Redhawks came roaring back with a 10-0 run of its own and it was 12-8. The run was halted however, after Kashawn Charles nailed a three pointer which were his only points of the contest.

The Panthers shot the ball well in the first half, shooting 58 percent the field, but Eastern had a hard time hitting free throws going 4-of-9 in the first half.

What hindered both teams to gain any sort of momentum was hitting from the charity stripe. 42 free throws were attempted by both squads and only 21 of them were made. Eastern specifically went 13-28 as a team.

George Dixon continued to be the staple inside for the Panthers, recording a double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and three steals. Dixon was everywhere on the court creating problems for the Redhawks, a team that shot nearly 35 percent from the floor.

Mack Smith had a team high 19 points and is now up to 69 consecutive games making a three pointer. He also had seven boards.
Southeast Missouri led most of the first half, with its ability to grab rebounds, holding the 20-15 margin. But, the dominance inside came from the seven offensive rebounds to Eastern’s zero.

And, the Redhawks led that category by six until the final buzzer but they did have 15 offensive rebounds compared to the Panthers three.

What really stood out defensively for Eastern was protecting the rim, combining for 11 blocks where JaQualis Matlock and Jordan Skipper-Brown had three apiece.

The Panthers went about four minutes late down the stretch without scoring a field goal which had the Redhawks sniffing at their first conference win.

“I think we just survived it; I wasn’t a big fan of our defense. I mean you can look at the numbers and think they shot 34 percent that we did a good job. I thought we worked hard, I’m not sure if we got a whole lot done.” Spoonhour said.

Eastern now faces the two top dogs conference play on the road this upcoming week against Murray State and Austin Peay. Murray State is slated for Thursday and Austin Peay on Saturday.
Vince Lovergine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].