Eastern stuns Murray State 63-60

Eastern+guard+Josiah+Wallace+drives+the+basket+in+Eastern%27s+63-60+comeback+win+over+Murray+State+Thursday+night.+Wallace+made+a+game-winning+three-pointer+with+.4+seconds+to+play.+

Eastern guard Josiah Wallace drives the basket in Eastern's 63-60 comeback win over Murray State Thursday night. Wallace made a game-winning three-pointer with .4 seconds to play.

JJ Bullock, Editor-in-Chief

The play was executed exactly as it was called “late game.” The purpose of the play was to get ball into Eastern guard Josiah Wallace’s hands and win the game; which is exactly what it did Thursday night in Eastern’s stunning 63-60 comeback win over Murray State in Lantz Arena.  

Eastern trailed Murray State by 27-points with 11 minutes left in the game, to any onlooker Eastern looked all but finished. But none of that mattered with six seconds left to play when Eastern was tied with Murray State 60-60. That is when the play call came in “late game.” 

Eastern guard Shareef Smith, heavily guarded by Murray State defenders, passed the ball to Wallace who, perhaps a little earlier than designed, pulled up from about 27-feet and drained what would be Eastern’s game-winning basket with .4 seconds left to play. Eastern’s “late game” play call secured Eastern’s late-game double-digit comeback win.  

“We have been practicing that play, we call it “late game,” for a couple of weeks, three weeks or so, and I guess it worked tonight,” Wallace said. “(Shareef) did a good job of flipping me back the ball and (Jordan Skipper-Brown) set a good screen and refused it so it got the defense thrown off and I was lucky enough tonight that the ball went in and we got to be on the fun side of a close game tonight. 

Wallace added: “That’s a way to knock off the first team in conference right there and we had a good time and really needed it.” 

Wallace scored a game-high 20 points in addition to his game winning basket.  

The play was designed not just to get the ball into Wallace’s hands and win Eastern a game, but it was also in part designed to help Eastern shake some of its late-game demons. Eight of Eastern’s nine conference losses had come by single-digits this season, many of them were games Eastern lost late. Cue the creation of the “late game” play call. 

“As you know we’ve had a little issue with trying to score late,” Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour said. “So we’ve put some stuff in. We actually didn’t run it exactly right, except for the important part, Josiah was probably a little bit early in trying to catch it, you’re not setting it up for a 27-footer, you’d like for him to sort of get something better. 

Spoonhour added that the play is supposed to be designed with an entire court to run but point guard Shareef Smith had his momentum stopped by Murray State’s defense, making the play all the more unlikely to be pulled off. But Smith did get Wallace the ball somehow and Wallace capitalized.  

Eastern trailed Murray State 50-23 with 11:45 to play in the game. To that point, Murray State’s defense had all but shut down Eastern’s offense, and Wallace had only scored two points. But Eastern chipped away and chipped away at Murray State’s seemingly insurmountable lead.  

Spoonhour told his players they needed baskets, they still had time to turn the game around, but they also had time left to let Murray State really run away with the game. Eastern chose option No. 1.  

With six minutes to play Murray State’s lead was cut to 20 points. With three minutes to play the lead was just 12. Eastern slowly chipped away at Murray State’s lead, then the big momentum switch happened, and as quickly as Eastern had let the game get away from it in the first half, it suddenly had the game back within its reach.  

Kashawn Charles cut the lead to 10 points with three minutes remaining. Wallace cut it to eight points just 20 seconds later. This is when Spoonhour knew the game was swinging back into Eastern’s favor.  

“I thought, ‘O.K. you can go win this now,’ and we got it to six and (Wallace)…we just sort of kept playing,” Spoonhour said. “You’re not really thinking about winning until the thing gets to a manageable number and eight points was manageable.” 

Wallace cut Murray State’s lead to just three points after converting a layup and a free throw with 55 second left to play. Murray State turned the ball over on its next possession, and Eastern found Charles wide-open in the corner where he knocked down a three to tie the game with 40 seconds left.  

Murray State missed two more shots and gave Eastern the ball back with six seconds to play… this is when Eastern called game… or more specifically “late game.” 

“I think it’s just a testament to our team,” Wallace said of the comeback win. “Defensively we were locked in all night, I mean from the jump. Offensively shots were just not falling for the first about 30 minutes of the game. I think around the 10-minute mark (Charles) came in the game and started hitting a couple of shots, Mack (Smith) knocked down a three and a couple of layups. So I think just they were playing good defense on us and it was hard for us to get in a rhythm, but we were able to find a rhythm before it was too late and our defense picked up when we got the press and we were able to create transition buckets and ultimately it led to a win.” 

Eastern is now 6-9 in OVC play, Murray State falls to 12-3.  

 

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]