MACOMB — Last season the Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team suffered through offensive droughts that cost the Panthers key games, especially during Ohio Valley Conference play.
In the second game of the season at Western Illinois, the cold stretches returned. Holding a lead five minutes to go in each, the Panthers offense went cold, and WIU took advantage each time. First it was a 12-2 run for a 30-28 halftime lead.
Then in the second half, an 11-0 run gave the Leathernecks the lead for good for a 56-54 win.
EIU shot only 34.5 percent (19-of-55) in the loss and fell to 0-2 on the season. WIU is 2-0.
“This game I don’t know if it was as much execution as it was; about the six-minute mark, we just got passive,” EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We just were not aggressive enough, I say that but Western made some good plays at the bucket. There were times on some drives that we missed open guys. I will have to look at it, but we probably needed to execute a little bit better down the stretch.”
The Panthers turned the ball over 19 times. All but one player, Shawn Wilson, had at least one turnover.
“(They are) trying to make plays and it’s every guy doing a little bit too much,” Spoonhour said. “That’s where that comes from, guys trying to make plays that aren’t there. That will get figured out.”
EIU’s defense held WIU to 56 points on 37 percent (20-of-54) and only allowed 12 free throws in the game. EIU forced 14 turnovers but only scored 13 points off those. EIU did win the rebounding battle 41 to 37.
“We held them down alright and we rebounded it fine. It would’ve been nice to create some more things,” Spoonhour said. “We did get some steals and couldn’t finish in transition. Really for us, you hold a team to 56, you feel like you outta win.”
WIU started with a 5-0 lead when Terrell Lewis hit a 3-pointer to jump-start EIU’s offense at the 17:21 mark. Mack Smith added another 3-pointer, Justice Green hit two free throws and EIU took a 7-5 lead.
The Leathernecks went back up 12-9 when EIU held them scoreless for a four-minute stretch. D’Angelo Jackson scored on a reverse layup, Jajuan Starks hit a 3-pointer and Montell Goodwin hit a jumper to give EIU a 16-12 lead at the 8:37 mark of the first half.
A 3-pointer by Starks gave EIU its biggest lead of the first half at 26-18, but then the Panthers struggled from the field. EIU didn’t make another shot in the half, and the Panthers struggled to get the ball inside. Even with WIU center Brandon Gilbeck on the bench with foul trouble, EIU only scored four points in the paint in the first half.
EIU also earned the bonus at the 7:57 mark of the first half, but only made one trip to the line, at the 4:24 mark, in the half. Starks hit both free throws to give EIU a 28-25 lead, but it went into the half trailing the Leathernecks.
WIU scored the final five points of the half, and Goodwin missed a 3-pointer right before the buzzer, so the Leathernecks went into halftime with a 30-28 lead.
EIU did a better job of getting the ball to the hoop in the second half. Muusa Dama hit a hook shot, and Starks scored on a dunk. Goodwin added a 3-pointer and EIU went up again at 35-33.
Once again, EIU got Gilbeck into foul trouble in the second half, this time with 12:18 left in the game and the Panthers leading 41-37 after a Jackson free throw.
EIU then went almost four minutes without a score until Starks hit a 3-pointer to keep the Panthers up 46-41. A little later, Jackson hit a free throw but missed the second. Michael Chavers grabbed the offensive rebound, and Goodwin hit a 3-pointer to put EIU up 50-43.
Dama hit a hook shot with 5:11 remaining for a 52-45 lead, but then the Panthers didn’t score again until there were 15 seconds left.
Dalan Ancrum took advantage and hit three straight 3-pointers to put the Leathernecks up 54-52. Then Ancrum hit two free throws with 52 seconds left for a 56-52 lead.
EIU couldn’t get the ball inside and had to settle for a 3 as the shot clock wound and Starks’ attempt was blocked.
But EIU had fouls to give, and Lewis fouled to force WIU to throw it in from the sideline. Michael Chavers almost got the steal and forced a jump ball. Jackson drove in for a layup and made it 56-54 with 15 seconds left.
The Panthers put WIU into the bonus, and C.J. Duff missed the front end of a one-and-one. Jackson got the rebound for EIU, but Goodwin missed the 3-pointer for the win. Jackson got the offensive rebound, but the Panthers couldn’t get a shot off and lost 56-54.
“Ancrum is a really good player. … He’s a hard guy to defend because he’s 6-6 and shoots it way above his head, and he does make those 3s and he makes big ones,” Spoonhour said. “(Western) was good last year and played well at the end of the year and they’ve all gotten better. It was a good game, one that we would’ve liked to win. There’s things we have to do better.”