The Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team and Austin Peay both started the Ohio Valley Conference season in opposite ways.
The Panthers had to travel to Murray State on Thursday to open OVC play and the Racers, who are ranked in the top 25 of some mid-major polls, had their way with the Panthers. Murray State, behind a triple-double effort of Ja Morant, defeated EIU 80-52 on Thursday.
EIU fell to 4-8 and 0-1 in the OVC with the loss, and with the Thursday-Saturday OVC schedule, the Panthers don’t have much turnaround to change things around for Austin Peay.
So EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said the Panthers have to mostly focus on the things they do well from game to game.
“When you have one day, you don’t have a ton of time to prepare something special, but you have to go and do well,” Spoonhour said. “We’ve been a good rebounding team and a good defensive team and we didn’t do either Thursday. We have to do what we do well. If you go on the road and play well, you have a chance and then it just comes down to who makes the plays. Just have to get ourselves straightened out.”
Austin Peay opened OVC play at home against SIU Edwardsville and seemed to have no problem with the Cougars. The Governors had a 16-point lead at halftime and rolled to a 78-58 win on Thursday.
Austin Peay improved to 6-7 with the win and 1-0 in the OVC.
EIU doesn’t have time to worry about how it played against Murray State since Austin Peay just played so well two days ago.
“That’s how these games are. You don’t have time to be too happy or too sad,” Spoonhour said. “We just didn’t play very well at all, and Murray played well. There were a lot of things that weren’t good about how we approached it. The way Austin Peay plays, they really play hard and force a lot of turnovers and have tough guys and they play well together.”
The Governors host EIU at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Dunn Center in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Austin Peay is also completely different than in the past. The Governors have a new head coach, Matt Figger, and are led by two freshmen and one transfer.
Freshman Terry Taylor leads the team with 15.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Averyl Ugba, a transfer from Grambling State, is averaging 12.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. Freshman Dayton Gumm is averaging 11.9 points per game.
Ugba had 21 points and 10 rebounds against SIUE and Taylor had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“Taylor is having a really good year. He’s been great and Ugba had a good game. They have some really good inside players,” Spoonhour said. “They are like Illinois when you watch them on film. With Matt being with Frank Martin, their team plays like that. They have good athletes and they play hard.”
Montell Goodwin leads EIU with 12.3 points per game and Jajuan Starks is averaging 11.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Muusa Dama leads EIU with 7.0 rebounds per game.
Freshman Mack Smith, who is averaging 5.0 points per game, returned against Murray State after missing the past six games with a shoulder injury.
Smith finished with 4 points and two rebounds against Murray State. He was becoming a key player off the bench for the Panthers before his injury and Spoonhour said it might take a game or two to get back into a rhythm.
“It will take him a little while.He had a couple of open looks. It’s hard to step in and have that be the first game,” Spoonhour said. “He will get himself going. He’s only had a couple of practices and away he went. He will be fine.”