Panthers lose at buzzer in home opener

Eastern+forward+Jermaine+Hamlin+%2834%29+jumps+to+deflect+an+inbounds+pass+in+the+final+seconds+of+Easterns+loss+to+Central+Michigan+Monday.+The+pass+was+gathered+by+Central+Michigan+guard+Jermaine+Jackson+Jr.+%2810%29+who+scored+on+a+layup+as+time+expired%2C+giving+the+Panthers+a+62-61+loss.+

Ashanti Thomas | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern forward Jermaine Hamlin (34) jumps to deflect an inbounds pass in the final seconds of Eastern’s loss to Central Michigan Monday. The pass was gathered by Central Michigan guard Jermaine Jackson Jr. (10) who scored on a layup as time expired, giving the Panthers a 62-61 loss.

Ryan Meyer, Men's Basketball Reporter

Eastern’s men’s basketball team lost 62-61 in a thriller Monday night against the Central Michigan Chippewas in their home opener.

The Panthers were down 60-58 with 27 seconds left when forward Jermaine Hamlin blocked a Central Michigan shot to give Eastern the ball in what would become their last offensive possession of the game.

Clements drove towards the hoop with less than 10 seconds left and swung a low pass to C.J. Lane for a three-point attempt that he buried with 2.4 seconds remaining on the clock.

Kejuan Clements described what was said in the timeout following Hamlin’s block as head coach Marty Simmons devised a play to take the lead.

“Before C.J. hit the shot, we set up a zone play and when we got out there we seen them in man so we adjusted, got in the lane and kicked for an open three,” Clements said.

Central Michigan called a timeout to draw up a final play down 61-60. The inbounds pass flew through the air and ended in the hands of Jermaine Jackson, Jr., who hit a layup at the buzzer to give Central Michigan the win as he ran down the sideline with a finger to his lips shushing the crowd.

Before the Chippewas inbounded, Clements explained what was said in the huddle as the Panthers took the court to defend the last play.

“The last timeout, he told us to stay disciplined, if we don’t catch the ball, we got to be aware that anybody can tip it to anybody on the court, and I don’t think we did that at the end,” Clements said.

Jackson was one of two Chippewas with 14 points, along with Cameron Healy. Central Michigan had two other players score double digits in Kevin Miller and Harrison Henderson, who also had eight rebounds.

Eastern had two players in double digits, both of whom topped the previous individual high of 10 points. Sammy Friday IV had 12 points on 4-6 shooting and six rebounds and Henry Abraham had 11 points and six rebounds. Clements had eight points, nine rebounds and four assists.

Eastern would end up shooting 25.9 percent from the field in the second half after being up 13 going into halftime and at one point being up 32-12 in the first half.

Before Central Michigan began to close on the lead, the score remained 52-42 in favor of Eastern for roughly four minutes in the middle of the second half.

Simmons said that a 14-8 run by the Chippewas could be attributed to their momentum in the second half, noting that the Panthers’ lack of experience playing together could have also played a part in their late-game struggles.

“We’ve got such a new team,” Simmons said. “I think any team, you’re always going to work on that. Your ability at the end, I really felt like the last three or four minutes of the (first) half Central made a little run there. And they’re going in the locker room feeling pretty good after…they’ve been down 20.”

Turnovers remain a problem for the Panthers, who turned the ball over 16 times Monday night. Simmons said the team continues to emphasize protecting the ball in practice.

“We address it every day,” Simmons said. “We work on it every day, sweeping the ball, step-offs, catching the basketball, showing video, showing the mistakes we’re making, absolutely. We’ve said it from day one and we’ll say it throughout the entire season. That’s our number one thing offensively, is we can’t beat ourselves.”