Free Misses Spoil Two Comeback Efforts

The SIU-E Cougars (5-10, 0-1) dropped their OVC opener today, despite playing quite evenly with Tennessee Tech (5-11, 1-0).

Without question the culprit was missed free throws.

As a team SIU-E missed 15 free throws, but most of the misses came off the hands of Burak Eslik and Keenan Simmons.

Senior Eslik is ordinarily a reliable rifler.  Entering play he was tied for fourth in the league at 83.3% shooting (55-66) from the stripe.

No more.

Eastern Illinois (8-6, 5-2) also narrowly missed out on a home win, despite the ideal opportunity to tie late.

Down two points to Jacksonville State (8-7, 2-0) with eight seconds left, EIU benefited from a Malcolm Drumwright free throw split.  As his second miss clanged, Dama pulled down the rebound, finding Cornell Johnston.

Cornell ran the length of the floor, feigned left at midcourt and kept the ball in his right hand the whole way.  When he neared the lane he lofted a layup.

Tyrik Edwards swatted the attempt away, but perhaps caught Lil’ T with the body.

Johnston and EIU needed both free throws to even the game at 57.  Only a single tenth of a second remained.

Johnston buried the first.  Jacksonville State Head Coach Ray Harper inquired about the game clock.  He wanted more time, to allow for JSU to conjure a final shot if Cornell made his second.

The officials checked the monitor and determined 0.7 to be appropriate.  This process took at least two minutes, and when Johnston and the EIU Panthers returned to the floor, it appeared the game would finally be decided.

Despite the 57-56 score, EIU had to feel confident in their 75.3% career shooter.  Johnston set his feet and the official readied to bounce the ball.  Then Coach Harper injected a wrinkle into the proceedings.  He sent a sub to the official’s table, forcing an awkward halt.

The substitution was not necessary for a forthcoming play.  It was blatantly designed to rattle the shooter.

Johnston missed.

EIU lost, 57-56.

Though Coach Harper’s maneuver felt slimy it didn’t break any rules, and Johnston usually makes late-game free throws.

Today’s missed chances left two home teams with OVC losses.

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