Panthers return to action with 13-point loss to Cougars


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern forward Paul Bizimana looks to pass the ball in the Panthers’ game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 13 in Lantz Arena. Bizimana tied for the team high with nine points in the game, which Eastern lost 66-53.

Ryan Meyer, Men's Basketball Reporter

Eastern’s men’s basketball team dropped to 0-2 in OVC play on Thursday night, losing 66-53 to SIUE at home in their first game in over two weeks due to multiple players entering COVID protocols.

The Panthers were outrebounded 50-28 by the Cougars, and redshirt freshman DeeJuan Pruitt had 15 rebounds to go with his eight points. Shaun Doss Jr. was the highest scorer of the night with 17, and one of only two in double digits, the other being his fellow Cougar Shamar Wright. Eastern’s top scorers were CJ Lane and Paul Bizimana, both with nine.

Bizimana continued his streak after being named OVC Freshman of the Week for a strong 13-point performance against Ball State.

“My coach told me if I just play hard, the game will come to me, so I just play hard every possession, do what he tells me to do,” Bizimana said.

Eastern’s other true freshman, Rodolfo Rufino Bolis, had a strong first half with eight points and six rebounds, and a strong finish through a foul with less than a second left in the half. He wouldn’t score or grab a rebound in less than eight minutes of play in the rest of the game.

Eastern head coach Marty Simmons said the two are continuing to come into their own as they become accustomed to NCAA Division I play.

“They just got to continue to work, get stronger, be more physical, understand the physicality, the quickness, the toughness at this level of play, with who we’re playing now, they’re really going to have to step up,” Simmons said. “We’re counting on those guys, and I think you’ll see their continued growth and development as we continue with the season.”

The offense took nearly six minutes to put points on the board but were fortunate that SIUE only scored six in that time period.

Having not played a game since December 29, Simmons said the Panthers would be working harder in practice before their next OVC games against Austin Peay on Saturday and Murray State on Monday.

“We’ve had a lot of guys out with COVID, we’ve just had a couple days here at practice, we need to rep it, we need to get back into being fundamentally sound, (make sure) we’re blocking out every time that shot goes up, finding a man, pivoting, physically blocking out and then pursuing the basketball,” Simmons said.

Eastern plays Austin Peay in Clarksville on Saturday.


Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]