CHARLESTON -- The Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team stuck with Jacksonville State, which was third in the Ohio Valley Conference, for a half.
But right away in the second half, the game hit the skids quickly for the Panthers. The Gamecocks got a few easy buckets early and EIU went 0-4 to start the half and had three turnovers. All of a sudden a two-point deficit for the Panthers turned into a double-digit one.
JSU never slowed down in the second half, either, as the Gamecocks rolled to a 75-56 win over EIU on Thursday at Lantz Arena.
“They kicked our butts pretty good in the second half,” EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We were slow to get back in the first eight possessions. We were playing catch-up. When you are in retreat mode, which we were in that second half, that’s what it looks like. That’s a good team.”
The Gamecocks shot 52.8 percent (19-of-36) in the second half en route to a 44-point half.
“In the second half, they just came out with more energy, were more aggressive,” EIU senior guard Montell Goodwin said. “They got a lot of put-backs and offensive rebounds. They kind of pressured us and got us out of our comfort zone.”
The Gamecocks did a good amount of their damage in the paint. JSU went into halftime with 14 points in the paint. In the second half, JSU outscored EIU 24-6 in the paint.
“That’s working it and moving it and getting it to where you need to,” Spoonhour said. “When you get it around the basket, you gotta make it and they didn’t miss it.”
The Panthers only shot 33.3 percent (8-of-24) in the second half and 37.3 percent (19-of-51) in the game. EIU only took six three-pointers in the second half and missed its share of buckets down low.
“Rushed shots. They pressure you and make it hard on you,” Spoonhour said. “We got to the line 20 times, probably needed to get to the line 35 times. Needed to get there more and we stayed at the perimeter too much. They trapped and pressured and we had a hard time with it.”
Goodwin led EIU with 15 points, Mack Smith had 14 points and Muusa Dama had 11 points and six rebounds.
The Gamecocks scored the first four points of the game and took an 8-6 lead early. Then EIU held the Gamecocks without a point for more than 5 minutes and went on a 12-0 run. Goodwin hit a three-pointer, Smith hit a jumper and a three and then Dama had back-to-back buckets to put the Panthers up 18-8 with 11:40 left in the half.
JSU went on a 6-0 run to cut it to a three-point lead when Smith hit a three and Jajuan Starks scored on a layup to give EIU a 24-16 lead.
The Panthers were up 26-18 with 5:27 left in the half and EIU only scored three more points before halftime. JSU went on a 13-0 run to take the lead, 31-26.
Goodwin made a layup with 5 seconds left and was fouled. He completed the three-point play to cut into JSU’s lead as the Gamecocks went into halftime with a 31-29 lead.
Christian Cunningham was the spark for JSU to start the second half. He started the half with a dunk, got a steal and slammed it home and then had a layup.
“He puts himself in position do to that stuff. He’s active and knows how to play,” Spoonhour said. “He was in foul trouble in the first half; that was a big deal. We didn’t run back well enough, but they put them in position to do that. That’s how you shoot 50 percent.”
JSU went on an 11-0 run to start the second half when EIU scored on a free throw by Ray Crossland. The Panthers went 4 minutes without a field goal until Goodwin scored on a floater to cut the Gamecocks’ lead to 44-32.
The second half never got much better as JSU kept building its lead and went up 62-42 with 6:33 left in the game. JSU went on to win 75-56.
EIU (7-15, 3-8) hosts Tennessee Tech at 3:15 on Saturday.