Men’s basketball falls late to Austin Peay, now 0-6 in road OVC games

Vince Lovergine, Men's Basketball Reporter

It seems evident that the Eastern men’s basketball team struggles away from home, but these last two games would say otherwise based on their performances.

Eastern is now only 3-10 on the road, after coming up short in the final seconds against Austin Peay Saturday, 68-64.

The Panthers found their groove as of late, winning its last four conference matches and improved to 7-0 at Lantz Arena, but ran into the two top teams in the conference in Murray State Thursday and the Governors.

They lost these two games by a combined seven points, and were sniffing wins, but could not close the door in the final seconds.

Austin Peay remains unbeaten in conference play at 10-0 and has sole possession of first place in the OVC (depending on Murray State’s result Saturday), moving to 16-7 on the campaign.

Despite the results, something more enlightening happened, where Eastern guard Mack Smith extended his streak to 71 games of making at least one three-pointer in consecutive games and eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for his career, after leading Eastern with a team-high 13 points.

Smith becomes the 40th player in school history to achieve that feat.

Eastern seemingly looked like they could pull out a win, with Marvin Johnson, Shareef Smith and JaQuails Matlock each scoring 10 points.

They had the lead 64-60 with 3:48 to go after a Shareef Smith three-pointer, but Austin Peay scored the last eight points of the contest and took the lead for good with 10 seconds remaining. 

A balanced attack helped the Panthers inch closer to that win, as Matlock and Shareef Smith scored in double figures for only the second time this season.

The same goes for Johnson who earned double-figure scoring for the first time in six games.

A 38-31 halftime lead for the Panthers saw them shooting 61 percent from the floor. What could have played a major role in the loss is shooting a mere 38 percent from the foul line. Eastern shot just 2-8 from the free throw line in the first half alone.

A big test was to halt Terry Taylor from putting up big numbers, as he leads the OVC in scoring with 22 points per game. Eastern for the most part did their job containing Taylor, who recorded a game-high 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds.

Austin Peay also came in as the second-highest scoring offense in the conference at nearly 79 points per game, and the Panthers held them under 70.

Eastern did find themselves having a hard time stopping the Governors inside, allowing 44 points in the paint, and the Panthers mustered just 28 points inside. 

The schedule does not get much easier for Eastern, who sits seventh in the conference at 4-6, as the Panthers go up against an Eastern Kentucky team who is 8-2 in the OVC, but the game is at Lantz Arena Thursday at 7:30 p.m. 

Vince Lovergine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].