Get it to C.O.
The Eastern Illinois University Panthers delivered a tough overtime loss to the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State University on Saturday, 59-50 at Lantz Arena in Charleston, Illinois.
EIU held Jacksonville State to an abysmal 27.6% shooting.
With the win EIU has won five games in a row, while JSU has dropped five straight. The Panthers squeaked by the previous four wins, and are averaging a tiny 4.2 margin of victory during the run.
Winning close games builds pride.
“We knew that once we got the game into overtime, we had to come out and win the game,” said Josh Piper. “We fought so hard to get back in and get tied that we had to go and take it in the overtime.”
Overtime was a blessing for EIU. They felt like they deserved the opportunity, and knew they would come out on top at the end.
“We just have been believing in each other,” said Chris Olivier. “We are not giving up. We’ve just been keep [sic] fighting and that let us comeback.”
The overtime saw D.J. Felder make a basket and two free throws for JSU, while Olivier, Viser, and Johnston clicked to put the game away for the Panthers.
LeTrell “Snoop” Viser put in nine points, four of them in overtime, and pulled in five rebounds.
“When he gets in the rhythm and feels it, he’s going to make those shots that he’s taking in the second half,” said Head Coach Jay Spoonhour. “They guarded him pretty well in the first half, and in the second half.”
He exceeded his average points when a starter (8.8,) but without the overtime, we would have come up short.
“Probably what freed Snoop up for some of those shots late is the fact that they had guys playing a lot of minutes,” said Coach Spoonhour. “I think as the game wore on, we got free a little bit and made some better plays. I give a lot of credit to them. They guarded us well.”
JSU continued to foul in the overtime, trying to get the ball back, and putting their hopes on EIU missing free throws. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Cornell Johnston buried all four of his free throws in the overtime, and went 5-6 on the night. Johnston finished with eight points and two assists.
For all the Panthers’ success JSU is sputtering. As the Panthers glide the Gamecocks slide.
JSU has now lost five games in a row, all away from home court. To add insult to injury, they are 1-9 when playing away from Jacksonville, Alabama, where they are a perfect 6-0 this season.
The Gamecocks (7-9, 0-2) played without senior guard and scoring leader Darion Rackley (13.4 pts, 3.4 rbd avg) and Dontay Jackson (1.5 pts, 2.0 rbd avg.) As a result, three different players saw action on the court for over 40 minutes (JaQuail Townser, Malcolm Drumwright, and Avery Moore.)
All three had plenty to show for their time on the court.
Townser finished with eight points and a game high six assists of his team’s 8 total, but also gave six turnovers, a game high.
Drumwright added nine points, was 2-2 from the free throw line, and gave three rebounds in the loss.
Avery Moore contributed a team high 14 points and seven rebounds, making his four baskets from behind the three point line, and going 2-2 on his free throws.
The most potent player for the Gamecocks was D.J. Felder, with a double-double on the night. Felder ripped 13 rebounds, shot well enough to gather 10 points, and denying 2 shots for EIU in his 31 minutes of play.
Offensively, the Gamecocks were able to repeatedly drive to the lane and then pass out for an open shot attempt. As open as they were, the shots would not fall. This alone would keep them from winning the game.
When the lane was crowded, JSU used multiple ball screens out high to shoot behind from free throw range.
After seven minutes of play in the first half, Jacksonville State was able to sustain a 10-2 run that would carry them on, until midway through the second half. JSU had its largest lead of the game at 12, with 7:52 remaining in regulation.
Things went sour after that point for the Gamecocks. Over the next six minutes, EIU went 6-11 from the floor for 16 points, while JSU went 0-4 but did make all 4 free throw attempts and tied the game at 44-44.
The defense for JSU was very intense. Continually they tied up the outside shooters for EIU, resulting in them settling for a high-low post game. The Gamecocks played man-to-man without needing help-defense until late in regulation, where they double teamed Chris Olivier.
“That’s a great team (JSU.) They are missing a few players and we have to tip our hats off to them. They play really hard.” Olivier said.
“They (Jacksonville State) played very hard. They have a couple of guys on their team that played over 40 minutes. That’s hard to do, said EIU head coach Jay Spoonhour. “They did a good job guarding our guards. We were taking outside shots because they were guarding us inside. It wasn’t very pretty. I’d like for a few of them to go in, but it was certainly a tough game, which is every game against these guys.”
Because they guarded so well, they were able to outrebound EIU on both ends of the court.
“When you are clogging it (the lane) up as much as we are, you get a long way away from your man. When the ball bounces off of the rim, you have a long way to block out. Believe it or not, we forget to do that.” Coach Spoonhour said.
The MO was ‘Get it to C.O.’
EIU could not acquire open outside shots for almost the entire game. Instead, they rode the back of their junior forward. Coming up big for EIU, Chris Olivier was a force in the paint.
The entire EIU team agreed with this strategy.
“Coach just told us to get inside to C.O. , said Piper. “C.O. was making great plays down in the post. We knew that’s how we were going to win this game. We were just getting it down to C.O. down in the post and he was going to take us home.”
He tallied a double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, coming off of the bench to start the game.
“I have just been in a zone really,” said Olivier. “Coming in and working hard. My team, they believe in me, the coaches believe in me, so I don’t want to let those guys down.”
Grinding out his points in the paint, Olivier found his way to getting fouled. He often split his free throw attempts, going 6-13 for the game.
“The refs were letting us play a little bit,” said Olivier. “They missed a couple of calls. In the second half I just came in and had to play stronger. Coach says to not go looking for fouls, make them call them. I was just going for that.”
He was disappointed with his performance at the free throw line.
“I’ve been practicing,” said Olivier. “I just can’t make two of them in a row, I’m always splitting them.”
Eventually JSU tried to double team him before he began his post moves.
The double team enabled Olivier to pass to Josh Piper down low for an easy layup, tying the game with 20.6 seconds to go, 46-46.
“They were starting to send the double team,” said Olivier. “I realized that and didn’t want to force anything. If a team doesn’t double team me, I’m going to go score. If they do, I’m just going to kick it out to the open shooter.” Olivier said.
Piper knew how critical those easy baskets were going to be.
“We are just playing hard and taking it game by game,” said Piper. “They came in here with a lot of energy. They had us down 12, and we know it wasn’t over. We knew that we could get back in the game and fight till the end and we were able to pull it off.”
The Panthers will not forget coming back and taking this game from the Gamecocks. Now other OVC teams know what EIU and Chris Olivier are capable of.
“They’ve been sleeping on us,” said Olivier. “We know it. Eastern Illinois, we don’t get much credit as we need to. That’s why these first two conference games, I’ve been bringing so much energy, the aggressiveness. Before, nobody mentioned us, mentioned my name. I’m just trying to let them know that I’m here.”
With his two game, 42 point performance, he is the OVC Player of the Week.
The Eastern Illinois University Panthers (8-6, 2-0) travel to take on the Tennessee State University Tigers (3-13, 0-1) at the Gentry Center in Nashville, Tennessee tonight at 7:30 PM CST.
The Jacksonville State University Gamecocks (7-9, 0-2) head back home to play the Austin Peay State University Governors (5-9, 0-1) in Jacksonville, Alabama at the Pete Mathews Coliseum on Thursday, January 8th at 8 PM CST. Hopefully some of their home court magic will lift them to another victory.