Short-handed Panthers lose 6th straight

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

Only seven players were available for the Eastern men’s basketball team against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Tuesday evening, with some players out due to COVID-19 protocols and others dealing with regular injuries.

Despite the Panthers being undermanned, the score was close for much of the game before the Cougars pulled ahead late to win 87-74. With its sixth-straight loss, Eastern fell to 2-7 in OVC play.

The game was the first makeup game between the Panthers and Cougars, who had three games postponed this season due to COVID-19 protocols.

Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour said he thought the team responded well given the difficulty circumstance of competing with just seven players.

“I think they did great,” he said. “It’s hard to say that when you lose by 13 and give up a lot of points, but there was a limit to what we could do on defense.”

Eastern’s defense did allow five Cougar players to score in double figures, led by junior guard Carlos Curtis with 18. The Cougars shot 53.2 percent from the field as a team.

Eastern’s offense also shot well, outshooting Southern Illinois-Edwardsville with a percentage of 53.4.

Four Eastern players scored in double figures, led by senior guard Marvin Johnson with a career-high 28 points. Johnson shot 12-of-19 from the field and 2-of-3 from three-point range and also led the team with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. 

Senior guards Josiah Wallace and Deang Deang finished second and third on the team with 20 points and 11 points respectively and sophomore forward Madani Diarra scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting.

Spoonhour said that Wallace was dealing with a hamstring injury, but wanted to play given the lack of available players.

“(Wallace) is not moving very well, but he’s gutting it out,” Spoonhour said. “He’s had two trainers say he shouldn’t play, he had me say ‘you probably shouldn’t play,’ and he’s just like ‘I really want to try.'”

Deang played in his seventh game this season after missing the early part of the season recovering from an injury that ended his 2019-20 season.

He set new season highs with his 11 points, which all came in the first half, and 26 minutes.

“It’s good to see him back,” Spoonhour said. “He’s still working his way back, and it just takes some time.”

Healthy and available players will be important for the Panthers heading forward, as Tuesday’s game was the first in a stretch of six games in 12 days.

“It’s what the situation is this year,” Spoonhour said. “We all said, ‘well, we just want to play ball.’ And that feels and sounds great, and I talked to them and said ‘hey, there’s going to be some crazy things happening this year, we just got to be tough and get through it.’ But when you’re really going through it it’s not so much fun.”

Eastern plays next on Thursday on the road against Tennessee-Martin. The game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m.

 

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