Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News
The Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team held on to secure their second win of the season at home Saturday afternoon with a 76-71 victory over North Park, improving their record to 2-7.
Junior guard Kejuan Clements had an eventful outing at home, leading the team with 25 points, 11 assists and five rebounds.
Clements, who played 36 out of the 40 minutes Saturday afternoon, said that he felt he did not do well in his last game against Northern Illinois and owed it to his teammates to do better against the Vikings.
“My last game, I kinda played terrible, so it was only right that I come back as a captain, come back with a big game, and get a W,” he said.
The Panthers had four players in double digits: Clements, fifth year guard Kashawn Charles (17), freshman forward Rodolfo Rufino Bolis (10), and junior forward Jermaine Hamlin (10).
Against Rockford, the Panthers’ other Division III opponent, they shot 62.7 percent from the field and 40 percent from the three. This time around, The Panthers shot 49.1 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from the three.
The Vikings had three players in double digits: Gabe Johnson (19), Michael Osborne (17), and Jalen Boyd (13).
Despite being Division III, the Vikings challenged the Panthers both in the paint and in fighting for rebounds. They finished the game with 24 points in the paint as compared to the Panthers’ 30. The Vikings also managed to outrebound the Panthers 43-31.
With a minute left in the contest, the Vikings had cut the lead to 73-69 after a layup by Karl Polk Jr. A timeout was quickly called by the Vikings’ head coach and after the timeout, a turnover was forced by Osborne, leading to a missed layup in the paint by Izaiah Sanders.
The Vikings then missed two shots in the paint, getting their own offensive rebound each time. Johnson had 10 rebounds for the Vikings, followed by Adam Bulwa who had 11.
As for the Panthers, Hamlin led the way with six rebounds, followed closely by Clements and Sammy Friday IV, who both had five.
Head coach Marty Simmons said that rebounding has been one of the team’s main deficiencies since the start of the season, making it a large factor in the closeness of the score.
“That’s been a deficiency of our team since we started practice. We work on block-out and rebounding every day,” he said. “We knew that they didn’t have the size, they had the quickness and the athleticism, it was one of the top things in our defensive game plan. We are lucky, that one stat alone could’ve got us beat, and that’s something we will continue to work on.”
Looking ahead, the Panthers will face off against Missouri for their sixth road game of the season next Tuesday. The Tigers are currently 4-4 overall, putting them in 13th place in the Southeastern Conference.
Simmons said that in order for the Panthers to be successful against the Tigers, they must make their margin of error small.
“For us to have success our margin of error is so small that we have to take away defensive transition, we can’t let them get on the foul line, and we got to not let teams get deep post catches,” he said. “Rebounding and taking care of the basketball will be huge.”
Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]