EIU men’s basketball falls short to lose its sixth game in a row


Han Byer

Eastern guard, Cameron Haffner (3), dribbles towards the basket, avoiding Tennesse State guard, Jr. Clay (4), before attempting to shoot the ball in Lantz Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Zaria Flippin, Men's Basketball Reporter

Eastern’s men’s basketball team fell short in a nail-biter to the Tennessee State Tigers 65-61 in Lantz Arena on Saturday evening.

Junior guard Caleb Donaldson led the Panthers with 17 points and five assists and freshman guard Cameron Haffner scored 12 points and nine rebounds.

The Tigers went on an 11-3 run for the first five minutes in the first half. For the next four minutes, the Panthers went on an 8-0 run to tie the game 11-11, including a layup by freshman forward Sincere Malone after retaining a rebound from a missed jumper by junior center Nick Ellington.

48 seconds later, Donaldson made a fast break jumper in the paint, which got the crowd cheering on the Panthers. The game was in a six-point margin for the remaining first half.

Eastern guard, Caleb Donaldson (20), jumps up in attempts to make a basket, while Tennessee State forward, David Acosta (44), attempts to block Donaldson’s shot in Lantz Arena on Saturday afternoon. (Han Byer)

With six and a half minutes left in the first half, the Panthers had a 7-0 run up until the three-and-a-half-minute mark. With the Tigers and Panthers tied with 23 points, sophomore guard Dan Luers stole a pass for a fast break which ended in Ellington getting fouled by Tigers’ junior forward David Acosta. Ellington made both free throws to give the Panthers a two-point lead.

Tigers’ sophomore guard Justin Williams hit a three-pointer and sophomore guard Marcus Fitzgerald Jr. made a jumper in the paint to put the Tigers up 28-25 after the first half.

The second half was when the Panthers gained momentum. The Panthers lead as much as nine points in the second half.

In the final four minutes, head coach Marty Simmons felt that the team fell short.

“We just didn’t finish it off in the last four minutes.” In the last four minutes, missed jumpers, dunks, and three-pointers caught up to the Panthers.

The Tigers tied the game to 57 points with two and a half minutes left on the game clock. Tigers’ graduate forward Zool Kueth made a layup in the paint to give the Tigers a two-point lead with 47.8 seconds left on the clock.

In the final 14 seconds, Luers made a jumper in the paint which got the EIU crowd excited. After Donaldson fouled Fitzgerald Jr., Fitzgerald Jr. missed both free throw attempts, but a foul by Ellington sent Fitzgerald Jr. back to the free throw line to redeem himself as he made both free throws.

With 10 seconds left on the game clock, Donaldson made a crucial fast-break jumper, but after Malone fouled Clay, the game was over when Clay made both free throws.

One aspect that Haffner thought the team improved on was how the team competed.

“We have two of our best players out with Yaak and Kinyon being out. To see how we competed for a lot of the second half, but just lost at the end, but I thought we grew a lot.”

Donaldson also expressed how graduate guard Yaakema Rose Jr. and junior guard Kinyon Hodges help the team in crucial games like tonight’s loss.

“Once we get Yaak and Kinyon back, it’ll be a lot tougher for other teams to guard us.”

The Panthers are 7-18 overall after the loss to the Tigers. The next game for the Panthers will be against the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks on Thursday, Feb. 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. at Lantz Arena.