CHARLESTON -- Three days after the Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team pulled off the upset at Lantz Arena against the University of Illinois, the Panthers suffered the same type of defeat on their home court.
EIU coach Jay Spoonhour warned his team it could happen, too. He knew the University of Southern Indiana was coming off a 25-win season and an appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament. It didn’t take long for the Screaming Eagles to show why.
USI hit a barrage of 3-pointers early to take the lead and never really let up. The Screaming Eagles hit 16 3-pointers, shot 60.7 percent from the field and the D-II Southern Indiana team upset EIU 95-92 on Monday at Lantz Arena.
“You could see it a mile away. We scheduled this game when we knew we needed a hard game before we had Illinois. Then you have two killer games back-to-back,” Spoonhour said. “Right there, the fellas learned a whole lot. They did a good job of having energy and life and they did that for the first part of the game. But we didn’t guard. We were energetic, but we weren’t effective.
“It’s a terrific lesson. When you don’t do things as well as you are suppose to do, there’s a whole bunch of folks out there that will put a knot on your head.”
The Panthers were able to score 91 points and shot 47.4 percent, but they couldn’t get the stops on defense.
“The whole game we were terrible on defense,” Spoonhour said. “It absolutely serves its purpose. If you go out and don’t do a couple of major things, we didn’t track down a couple of rebounds and couldn’t get good shots for a stretch, you do that for an extended period of time, you are going to lose. Especially when the other team is good.”
Muusa Dama scored four points right away and D’Angelo Jackson added a bucket and EIU took a 6-2 lead early. The lead was short-lived as USI hit back-to-back 3-pointers to take an 8-6 lead.
EIU followed with an 11-7 run to take a 17-15 lead with 14:49 left in the half and it was the last time the Panthers led in the first half.
USI followed with three straight 3-pointers, a jumper and a layup to go up 28-17 with 10 minutes left in the half.
The Screaming Eagles had a 38-24 lead with 7:47 left in the first half when EIU started to chip away. An 8-0 run got EIU within 38-32. USI scored the next four points to go back up 42-32.
The Panthers defense started to slow USI down and forced a few turnovers. EIU took advantage and went on a 10-0 run with Jackson tying the game at 42 with 2:35 left in the half.
But EIU couldn’t take advantage of a few more USI possessions and the Panthers were scoreless for the rest of the half. A Mateo Rivero 3-pointer game the Screaming Eagles a 45-42 lead at halftime.
EIU made it a one-point game after Terrell Lewis got a steal right away and Jajuan Starks scored on a layup. But USI came back with a 3-pointer.
The Panthers offense went cold and USI took advantage with a 12-2 run for a 62-48 lead.
EIU attempted a comeback midway through the second half with a 7-0 run. Lewis hit a 3-pointer to make it 68-60, but USI responded and a bucket down low and a 3-pointer put the Screaming Eagles back up 75-62 with 7:46 to play.
EIU went on a 9-0 run to cut it to 82-78 with 2:34 left, but the offense didn’t score the next two possessions and USI went up 86-78.
The Panthers cut it to two points at 89-87 with 29 seconds left, but Alex Stein made six straight free throws to keep USI up at 95-91 with 11 seconds left.
EIU made it 95-92 and had a chance to tie after USI missed both free throws with 3.9 seconds left, but Lewis shot came after the buzzer and missed anyway as the D-II Screaming Eagles pulled off the 95-92 upset.
“We didn’t play well and at this point, this stage of the year, there can’t be this big of a gap of what you look like when you are poor and when you are bad, not when you have this many seniors,” Spoonhour said. “They should’ve been more steady. That’s a good ballclub that just outplayed us. We were ready to play, we played hard, we had energy, but we didn’t play smart, we didn’t play together and when you do that, you lose.”