OVC Ball Statbox
|(7) Eastern Illinois||29||33||62|
|13-17 (9-7 OVC)|
|(6) Murray State||45||33||78|
|17-13 (10-6 OVC)|
|21/52 (40.4%)||Field Goals||30/49 (61.2%)|
|10/27 (37.0%)||3-Point FG||5/9 (55.6%)|
|10/20 (50.0%)||Free Throws||13/15 (86.7%)|
|23 (9/14)||Rebounds (O/D)||34 (6/28)|
|14||2nd Chance Pts||11|
|10||Points off TO||16|
|18||Pts in the Paint||36|
Tempo Tracker (Possessions)
(7) Eastern Illinois offense
(6) Murray State offense
What happened: This one was over almost as soon as it started. Murray State jumped out to a 16-4 lead in the first seven minutes, and Eastern Illinois never really recovered.
Wayne Langston was the early catalyst for the Racers offense, scoring 10 of his 22 points in the opening eight minutes. Murray State was shooting better than 70% more than 16-minutes into the half, leading by as much as 20 in the first half. Almost all the damage was on the inside: the Racers attempted a season low 9 three-point shots, well below their previous low of 13 in a win over Morehead State.
The Racers finished 30-49 (61.2%) from the field, their best shooting night on the season.
Langston wasn’t the only standout for the Racers. Junior Bryce Jones Racers, getting awful close to a triple-double: 14 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
”I just knew tonight we had to come out and play with our backs against the wall because this is it,” Jones said. “Every game is like it’s our last. My back’s against the wall and I’m giving everything I got on the floor.”
Eastern Illinois’ offense couldn’t find their legs until the final 10 minutes of the game, but by then the damage was done. The Panthers hit 9-24 (37.5%) in the first half, and just one of their first eight shots in the second. Four Panthers scored in double figures led by 14 points from Demetrius McReynolds.
What it means: Well, it’s another long drive back to Charleston, and while Panther fans are obviously disappointed, head coach Jay Spoonhour says this has been a positive season, noting his team’s nine new players and 9-7 finish in the league.
Nashville hasn’t been very friendly to the Panthers as of late, but it’s worth mentioning that Eastern Illinois has made four tournaments in four years under Spoonhour. That’s an impressive streak, and one that seems certain to continue.
Sadly, due to their struggles in non-conference play, EIU probably isn’t postseason bound, finishing four games under .500.
Player of the night: A rough night for the Panthers, but A.J. Riley shot 4-7 from the field, and finished with 11 points. He also had one turnover: a perfect pass to Coach Spoonhour in a crouched position on the sidelines. Too bad Spoonhour isn’t eligible to recieve passes.
What’s Next: Trae Anderson is leaving, but the Panthers return much of their core for next season. The goal?
“In this league and this tournament structure, you need to be playing on Friday,” Spoonhour said. “I don’t mean playing on Wednesday and Thursday. I mean just showing up and Friday. It wasn’t very long ago we were in control of our destiny and we would be playing on Friday. Every game is really important and we have the team to be in position to do that. The thing I want the team to take away from is we have some things to get better at and we have things we need to improve upon and we are not that far off from playing on Friday. There were years we were scrapping and clawing just to get in the tournament. Now it is time to start thinking about coming here and actually do something.”
“…you need to be playing on Friday. I don’t mean playing on Wednesday and Thursday. I mean just showing up and Friday.
“I just have to remember this feeling,” McReynolds added. “I don’t ever want to feel like this again.”
Tonight, they showed that might not have been a one-off effort. Murray State came out poised, had great ball movement early, built a big lead, and never let the foot off the gas. They got the ball inside, scored, rebounded, hit free-throws. About the only negative: 15 turnovers.
“I thought it was good patience and good ball movement,” head coach Matt McMillion said. “Very unselfish play. Sixteen assists is very good.”
The elephant in the room remains: can Murray State win four games in four days? It’s a tall task, but Murray is playing their best basketball of the season. Fatigue will almost certainly become a factor, (but perhaps not until a potential Friday or Saturday game) in part due to their lack of depth, and you can’t expect to hit 61% every night.
Player of the night: Langston took over early, and made the most of his opportunities throughout the game, hitting 10-14 from the field. He also played 38 minutes, with another game looming tomorrow.
What’s Next: The Racers get the hottest team in the OVC, Morehead State. Murray got the win in an early season meeting, keeping the Eagles off the glass.