3 areas for Panthers to improve

Blake Faith, Men's Basketball Reporter

Eastern’s men’s basketball team has yet to win a conference game on the road.

Last weekend, against the top-tier teams in the OVC, the Panthers came up short with only seconds left in both games. Three key things stand out in the statistical numbers that the Panthers can turn into their favor come OVC tournament time.

Assist-to-turnover ratio

In Eastern’s two losses against Austin Peay and Murray State Eastern turned the ball over more times than they had assists. If you have been following the Panthers all year, when they pass the ball more, they are a better team.

Particularly in the four-game homestand you see four wins, but the difference of wins is evident. In the games where Eastern only won by single-digits their assist numbers were low and turnovers were high.

In the games where the Panthers won by double digits they passed for 22 assists in each game.

The players were smiling when they were able to share the ball and move the ball in successful ways to score and give others the opportunity to shine.

Examples of this were junior Kashawn Charles’ career-high scoring output against Tennessee Tech and the alley oops that Josiah Wallace and Mack Smith threw in both games that electrified Lantz Arena.

Who’s going to help Dixon on rebounding

Junior George Dixon leads the Panthers in rebounding and is second in the OVC in rebounds per game with 8.8. Dixon finds ways to be the best rebounder every game with his inside positioning and his ability to use his size to secure rebounds over taller players.

There is no clear second leading rebounder for the Panthers. Statistics for the Panthers would suggest that it is Wallace with 4.7 rebounds per game, but Marvin Johnson, Jordan Skipper-Brown and JaQualis Matlock all average over four rebounds per game as well.

Wallace does average more minutes per game so that gives him more time to secure rebounds, but when given the chance, Matlock and Skipper-Brown show that they are both capable of rebounding and helping on the defensive end in blocking shots.

Skipper-Brown, Matlock and Dixon are the top-three shot blockers the Panthers have this season.

Keep defending home court

The Panthers might be 0-6 on the road in conference play, but the Panthers are 4-0 at home in conference play. The Panthers are a combined 7-0 at home.

The Panthers come back from their road adversaries to a three-game homestand against third-place Eastern Kentucky, sixth-place Morehead State and 10th-place Southern Illinois Edwardsville.

Two of the three teams, Morehead State and Southern Illinois Edwardsville, combined for only three away wins total with both already losing 10 or more games this season on the road.

Eastern Kentucky, however, is 3-7 on the road, which are all conference road wins against Jacksonville State, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech.

Eastern Illinois has defended its home court, winning against Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech at Lantz Arena, but lost against Tennessee State on the road.


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