CHARLESTON, Ill. — The struggle for Eastern Illinois continues.
Despite career performances from Demetrius McReynolds and Muusa Dama, the Panthers fell to Austin Peay, 92-84. The Governors shot 54.2% from the field to complete their second consecutive win.
“It’s getting pretty frustrating,” said McReynolds. “At the beginning of the game, they were making everything. [In] the second half, we tried to pick up our defensive intensity but just couldn’t get no stops.”
As Thursday night against Murray State, the Panthers were ready to play. Eastern Illinois produced points on three of its first four possessions to pull ahead, 7-2.
The Governors, flipping a switch, immediately shifted momentum and seized an edge. Senior John Murry, not leading scorer Josh Robinson, scored 12 of his 18 points in the ensuing 8 minutes to help Austin Peay gradually chip away. In fact, with a Dre’Kalo Clayton triple at the 8:09-mark, Jay Bowen’s squad took a two-possession lead, 26-21.
The Panthers’ offense had great success in the first half, shooting 51.7% from the field. Regardless, Eastern Illinois trailed by up to eight and the Governors were threatening to pull ahead by double-digits. Thankfully, the post presence of Muusa Dama and guard play of McReynolds helped EIU within one going into halftime.
Over the final 6:10, junior Josh Robinson was 4-of-5 with 13 points. The beginning of the second half was no different.
Following 11 seconds of the Panthers leading, thanks to a Muusa layup, Robinson found a rhythm and could not miss.
“I was just really feeling it tonight,” Robinson said. “I knew I would have a good game.”
The 6’2″ guard, complemented by Murry and sharp-shooting sophomore Jared Savage, quickly ran his team to 60 points prior to the 13-minute mark. The Governors were in full control.
But, Eastern Illinois refused to go away. The Panthers kept Austin Peay’s lead in check, staying within five during the Governors’ march.
Then, Casey Teson, excellent in his three-point shooting, made a mid-range jumper off a pump fake and picked the pocket of Chris Porter-Bunton before going coast to coast for a layup. The Panthers were back on top.
Though, not for long.
Despite Teson continuing to will Eastern Illinois, an ill-timed shooting lull caged the Panthers.
For over five minutes, Eastern Illinois made no field goals and scored just two points. Although a Montell Goodwin three-pointer with 2:41 broke the drought, the damage was already done.
The Governors’ Kenny Jones outscored the entire Panthers’ team 9-5 over the stretch, ultimately allowing Austin Peay to sit comfortably with an eight-point advantage.
Nine made free throws, five of which ballooned the point total of Robinson to a season-high 36, sent the Panthers to their third straight loss at home.
Following a rough two-game span at Arkansas and Fort Wayne, Josh Robinson has scored in double-figures in 10 consecutive games. The St. Louis, Missouri, native is averaging 21.8 points per game, good for the highest average in the Ohio Valley Conference. The 6’2″ guard also soared for 7 rebounds today.
Three other Governors supplied 11 points or more. John Murry had 18 points while Kenny Jones posted a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. Jared Savage netted 11 points.
Demetrius McReynolds amended two subpar performances with a 32-point, 12-rebound afternoon. The Louisville, Kentucky, native was unstoppable, making 13-of-18 shot attempts and getting to the rim at will.
JUCO transfer Muusa Dama continued to impress and set a career-high for a second consecutive contest. On Thursday, the 6’9″ center scored 15 points and soared for 9 rebounds. He upped the ante this afternoon and recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is averaging nearly a double-double for the season with 9.2 points and 9.8 rebounds.
“I’ve been working on my post moves a lot with Meech (Demetrius McReynolds) and Coach [Jay Spoonhour],” Dama said of his torrid offensive production. “It’s just becoming kind of a second nature.”
With today’s win, 6-14 (2-3) Austin Peay positioned themselves in 3rd place in the OVC West. The Governors will return home for the first time in 2017 when hosting Morehead State on January 19. The contest starts a four-game homestand.
Conference play has been unwelcoming to 9-9 (1-4) Eastern Illinois. The Panthers are averaging over 76 points per game in their past four, but only have a 1-3 record to show for it.
“[I’m] just trying to stay positive every day and work hard,” said McReynolds of his responsibility as a senior leader. “I am trying to be a leader by example.”
McReynolds, Dama, and the Panthers take on UT-Martin this upcoming Thursday.
– P. Wesner