Preston Spradlin took over as Morehead State's men's basketball coach on an interim basis during the middle of last season. After the season, Spradlin had the interim tag taken off and was promoted to the full-time role. But his team this season is completely different than last year's squad.
Gone from last season's team are Xavier Moon and DeJuan Marrero, who were both seniors, and guard Miguel Dicent, who were the top three scorers for the Eagles.
But Eastern Illinois men's basketball coach Jay Spoonhour doesn't see much difference in how MSU plays this season than in how the Eagles played last season.
"They look a lot like Morehead has always looked. They have good, athletic guys that can jump up and shoot it," Spoonhour said. "The two guards are playing well. They are tough and rebound. Looking at their schedule, it looks like ours. It's a game both of us need for sure."
EIU comes into the game with a 4-9 overall record and dropped its first two Ohio Valley Conference games of the season to Murray State and Austin Peay last week. Morehead State is also 4-9 on the season and 0-2 in the OVC after losing to Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech last week. Both games were on the road.
It was the third straight loss for Morehead State. The Eagles started the losing streak with a loss to Butler, and it's been a challenging schedule for MSU this season. The Eagles faced Kentucky in an exhibition game and dropped games to Xavier and Virginia Tech. The Eagles also have losses to nine-win Lipscomb and Northern Kentucky teams and an 11-win Marshall team.
The Eagles are averaging 72.9 points per game and are shooting 43.9 percent from the field, but only 32.5 percent, second-worst in the OVC, from 3-point range.
Jordan Walker leads the Eagles with 13 points per game, and Djimon Henson is averaging 12.8 points a contest. Londell King is grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game.
EIU is fourth in the OVC in scoring defense at 68.1 points allowed per game, but the Panthers dip to seventh in the conference with opponents shooting 44.2 percent against them. EIU is coming off a game where the Panthers blocked eight shots in a loss to Austin Peay, and EIU is second in the conference with 4.2 blocks per game.
Spoonhour said the Panthers need to be consistent defensively.
"We will have flashes and do really well. Then (we'll have) stretches where we aren't sound, where people will get by us, or fouls when we should've held our ground," Spoonhour said. "You look at the percentages, we are giving up too high of a field goal percentage. We can't let them shoot upper 40s or in the 50s. With not having as many guards, we have to change some things up. The guys have worked hard, the effort is good. We have to finish off plays offensively and defensively."
The Panthers could be without two key guards against Morehead State. Terrell Lewis will miss the game with an ongoing ankle injury, and D'Angelo Jackson is questionable for the game. Jackson suffered an ankle injury early against Austin Peay, and Spoonhour said it's a really bad sprain.
Jackson took over some of the point guard duties after Lewis went down. Montell Goodwin has handled more point guard duties and Logan Koch is coming off the bench.
"Everyone has to contribute to ball handling. That's the first thing," Spoonhour said. "(MSU) is a good pressing team, so we have been working on it. It's handle the ball by committee. Some guys have to handle it more than they have. I thought we got out over our skis against Austin Peay and took off dribbling where they shouldn't. It's no secret, we have to do better at scoring. Some of it is shooting. We aren't getting enough putbacks and things around the goal to fall. We have to finish those plays better."
Goodwin leads EIU with 13 points per game, and Jajuan Starks is averaging 11.6 points per contest. The Panthers are second-to-last in the OVC with 66.7 points per game and are shooting 41.7 percent from the field.
Morehead State is second-to-last in the OVC with 79.2 points allowed per game, but Spoonhour thinks that has a lot to do with the Eagles' schedule.
"They guard really hard," Spoonhour said. "Like we've had, they've had a tough schedule. You start looking at season totals, that can be confusing. This is a good, strong, athletic team that plays hard."