Panthers win home opener by 22 points

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Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern forward Sammy Friday battles with two Chicago State defenders in the paint in a game Thursday afternoon. Friday led the team with 16 points and Eastern won the game 78-56.

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

Following a challenging three-game stretch on the road to open the season, the Eastern men’s basketball team bounced back in their home opener Thursday afternoon, beating Chicago State 78-56 for their first win of the season.

After losses to Wisconsin, Marquette and Dayton, Chicago State provided a bit of a respite for the Panthers, who opened the game on a 9-0 run and led by as many as 27 points in the game.

Head coach Jay Spoonhour said that he was just glad that the team was able to get into the win column.

“I was happy to win. Any time you start off with the games that we had, you’re just happy, you want to get a win,” he said.

The Cougars gave Eastern more trouble Thursday than they did in the game between the two last season, which Eastern won 98-34.

Chicago State shot just 4-of-21 from the field in the first half, but actually outscored the Panthers in the second half while shooting over 50 percent.

They were able to get within 18 points of the Panthers due to a 12-4 run at one point in the second half, but were unable to get any closer.

“I thought Chicago State competed the whole time,” Spoonhour said. “We’re all in the same kind of boat together, running around playing games, some of them aren’t even on your schedule. They’re in the same sort of boat in that everything’s been on the road, and I thought that they competed and did a good job.”

Eastern shot 48.4 percent from the field in the game and received scoring from multiple players.

Four Panthers scored in double figures, led by Sammy Friday IV with 16 points. He also tied for the team lead with seven rebounds.

“I’m really happy for Sammy. Sammy had a good game,” Spoonhour said. “He rebounded the ball, was able to finish some, so that was really good.”

Friday said that he was happy the team picked up the win, and was also glad to produce on the court after scoring 8 points in the first three games combined.

“I just keep working hard,” he said. “First two games, I didn’t do too well. I knew I had to come out the next couple of games and just play well, be consistent.”

He also said he was happy with the way the rest of Eastern’s bigs produced after having size disadvantages against their first three opponents.

“(Chicago State) didn’t have too many bigs, so just throw the ball inside,” Friday said. “We were able to capitalize off of that.”

Friday’s fellow bigs Jordan Skipper-Brown and George Dixon were productive as well.

Skipper-Brown had 11 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Dixon scored just two points but recorded seven rebounds and led the team with four steals.

Eastern will take the court again Saturday against Green Bay on the road. It will be the Panthers’ fifth game in 10 days.

Spoonhour said that this kind of experience with the schedule can help prepare some players who may end up playing professionally.

“If you’re ever going to go play for money, whatever league you’re in, it’s the lifestyle stuff that gets you. Are you going to stay up late?  You ain’t going to be any good,” he said. “It’s as close as we’ll get right now to being pro. We’re like pros with really bad contracts is what we are.”

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]