CHARLESTON — It wasn’t a bad first half offensively for the Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team against Austin Peay. The Panthers scored 30 points and shot 44 percent (11-of-25) from the field.
But it felt worse because of what the Governors were able to do. Austin Peay was able to limit any offensive rebounds by EIU, which allowed the Governors to be able to get out and run. Austin Peay got 9 fast-break points, its only of the game, in the first half and scored 22 points in the paint, which helped the Governors open up a double-digit lead before halftime.
EIU kept Austin Peay out of the paint in the second half but had to play catch-up. The Panthers were able to cut the deficit to 2 points later, but the Governors had enough of an answer and held on for the 76-69 win on Saturday at Lantz Arena.
“Their defense kept us from getting into good offense. We end up having to take guarded, bad shots,” EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said. “That really puts pressure on your defensive transition, which we are pretty good at. There were more transition layups in that first half than we’ve had in any game this year. It’s a good enough team anyway with offensive rebounding that you can’t give them easy ones. They earned the transition points because they guarded us. That’s how it all works. Defense leads to stuff.”
Freshman Mack Smith and senior Montell Goodwin carried most of the load offensively to get EIU (9-16, 5-9) back into the game in the second half. Smith finished with six 3-pointers and had 28 points. Goodwin finished with 17 points and six assists and played all 40 minutes. Both players shot over 50 percent from the field even with being the focal points of Austin Peay’s defense.
Goodwin did have a turnover late, but it was only his second one of the game.
“It’s hard to ever get upset with Montell because he’s giving you everything he’s got and he never comes out. He ends up shooting over 50 percent and has six assists to two turnovers,” Spoonhour said. “Every team is going to give you the best press you got and Montell is handling it and I love it. He’s doing a heck of a good job.
“With Mack, we have to find a way to get him easier looks because he’s making hard shots. Mack has really been good.”
EIU was down 10-9 with 13:45 left in the first half when Austin Peay went on a 7-0 run. The Governors (15-11, 10-4) lead hit 15 points at 34-19 with 4:05 left in the half when Goodwin and Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 34-25.
The Governors got a 3 from Terry Taylor to go back up by double digits, and Austin Peay went into halftime with a 41-30 lead.
“We were completely disjointed because we were having a hard time completing a pass,” Spoonhour said. “But that’s what they do, they really pressure you. They have good athletes that work really hard. That’s why they are good.”
In the second half, EIU chipped away at the lead, and Goodwin scored on a layup and Smith hit a 3 to make it a 4-point game. Taylor hit a 3 to put APSU back up 51-44.
The Governors went back up by 10 after a Chris Porter-Bunton 3 to make it 61-51 when EIU went on a 9-3 run. Austin Peay hit six 3-pointers in the second half, and Dayton Gumm had four in the game.
“We zoned and I don’t think we did bad in the zone, we haven’t done it much, but there’s going to be guys that get some shots, and you try and do the best you can to limit it, which we did,” Spoonhour said. “But Gumm got free a couple of times and (Porter-Bunton) made a big one. Those are killers. We needed them to miss some shots. They stepped up and made plays.”
Smith hit a turnaround jumper on the baseline that banked in to make it 64-60 with 4:34 left. Later, Smith hit a 3 to get EIU within two when Porter-Bunton made a layup for a 67-63 Austin Peay lead with 2:46 left.
Goodwin hit a baseline jumper with 1:05 left to get EIU within three at 70-67. Zach Glotta went hit only one of two free throws, but Goodwin turned it over and Glotta hit two free throws to make it 73-67 with 34 seconds left.
Goodwin hit a jumper and Dayton Gumm only hit one free throw. Austin Peay was still up 74-69 with 17 seconds left when Ray Crossland’s 3-pointer rolled out for EIU, and the Governors went on to win 76-69.
EIU plays at Southeast Missouri State on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.