CHARLESTON — The Eastern Illinois men's basketball team has some things to clean up for Saturday's home game against Tennessee Tech. The game tips at 3:15 p.m. at Lantz Arena.
A good portion of it is on the offensive end. Once again, EIU's offense struggled, this time against Jacksonville State on Thursday. The Panthers (7-15, 3-8) were solid offensively for a good portion of the first half, but before halftime, they went on a 5-minute dry spell. In the second half, EIU shot 33.3 percent (8-of-24) and only scored 6 points in the paint. That allowed Jacksonville State to pull away in the second half for a 75-56 victory.
EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said the team has to keep moving past its offensive struggles this season.
"You can't dwell on it because they have to believe they can make plays," Spoonhour said.
For the third straight game, the Panthers failed to reach 60 points, which has been too common an occurrence for EIU this season. The Panthers are last in the Ohio Valley Conference with 65 points per game and they have only scored 60.7 points in league games. EIU is also last in the OVC with a 40.6 shooting percentage, which has dipped to 37.8 percent in conference games.
Part of the reason is that EIU is without three point guards. Terrell Lewis out for the season with an ankle injury, D'Angelo Jackson is out with an ankle injury and Logan Koch is out with a calf injury. Walk-on guard Shawn Wilson played 13 minutes on Thursday, and Spoonhour has moved some positions around to make up for the injuries.
Still, the Panthers need to be steadier on the offensive end, especially in such a tight battle for the final spots in the OVC Tournament. With seven games left, EIU is tied with UT Martin and SIU Edwardsville for the final two spots. Tennessee Tech (16-8, 8-3) is tied for the No. 3 spot with Jacksonville State and Austin Peay.
Spoonhour said the team took too many rushed shots against Jacksonville State and they can't do that against Tech.
"For players, young guys in particular, you can be easily frustrated. It's been a hard year and hard on guys, and you have to find ways to make them believe that they can do well," Spoonhour said. "They have to play well. Sure you are in positions you haven't been in, but you have to use your brain and we don't always do that. Just gotta keep harping on it and working on it. At some point as a player, you need to learn that doesn't work when you do that."
Montell Goodwin leads EIU with 13.9 points per game, and Jajuan Starks is averaging 10.8 points per game. Mack Smith is averaging 11.1 points per game.
Goodwin did point out the team did have some good moments in the first half, they just have to keep playing like that.
"It felt good. It felt like we were starting to jell together, and then we dropped the ball a little bit," Goodwin said. "When we play on Saturday, we have to play a full 40 minutes. Not just a half."
Tech is averaging 75.0 points per game, which is fourth in the OVC, and is shooting 45.1 percent from the field. The Golden Eagles are on a three-game winning streak and are playing without Aleksa Jugovic, who has missed the last five games and is averaging 14.0 points per game. Curtis Phillips Jr. leads Tech with 14.2 points per game, and he is averaging 5.0 rebounds per game to go along with 42 steals this season. Kajon Mack is averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, plus he has 91 assists this season. Mason Ramsey is averaging 10.1 points per game.