GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The Eastern Illinois men's basketball team led Green Bay for 37 minutes in the 40-minute contest on Wednesday. The Panthers had an 18-point lead in the first half, and even though EIU struggled offensively in the second half, the Panthers still had a 13-point lead with 8:35 left in the game.
But the Panthers' offensive struggles caught up to them in the second half. Without leading scorer Jajuan Starks in the second half, who was sick, or point guard Terrell Lewis limited with an ankle injury, the Panthers offense struggled against Green Bay's 1-3-1 zone.
EIU managed only 18 points in the second half and were 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) from the field, giving Green Bay, even down by 13 points late in the second half, a chance to come back. The Phoenix ended the final 2:23 on a 10-3 run, and Montell Goodwin's 3-pointer missed the mark as Green Bay came back from double digits to claim a 59-57 win over EIU.
"That's just rough," said EIU coach Jay Spoonhour in the postgame radio interview. "When you have a lead, which we haven't had a ton of leads this year, but we've had somewhere it's double digits, you have to keep scoring. You have to execute, run it better and we didn't do that. We didn't have very good possessions. We continued to play hard all the way through it, got back and played good defense and we did a really good job of not fouling.
"We are getting tired of saying we are going to learn from this, but this is a game you have to win because you did enough to win it."
The first half, EIU didn't have trouble scoring. Even though there was a bit of a drought at one point, EIU went into halftime 39-26 lead and shot 45.5 percent from the field, including 5-of-11 from the 3-point line and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. But in the second half, EIU struggled to make shots, going not only 6-of-22 from the field, but also 3-of-9 from the free-throw line.
"When you get good looks on the road, you have to make them and they didn't go in," Spoonhour said. "(Green Bay) made good plays. You gotta get the ball in the bucket. We are doing the things to get it there – and then we flat out don't make it. We turned it over more in the second half and that's from being passive."
EIU was up 52-39 with 8:35 left when an 8-0 run cut it to 52-47 with 6:45 left. Ray Crossland got an offensive rebound and putback to keep EIU up by seven, but Khalil Small had back-to-back layups to make it a three-point game at 54-51. Crossland hit a 3-pointer with 1:55 to put EIU back up by six, but Small responded with a three and Sukhjot Bains hit a shot from behind the arc to tie it at 57 with 1:18 left.
Lewis missed a 3 with 38 seconds left and Green Bay got the rebound. Bains made a basket with 21 seconds left, and Goodwin's 3 was off the mark to give the Phoenix the win as EIU falls to 2-6 with the loss.
Lewis finished with four assists, giving him 501 for his career. He's only the ninth player in Ohio Valley Conference history with 1,000 points and 500 assists.