EIU Panthers

Saturday, January 29, 2011

EIU - Tennessee Tech Recap

Sorry for the delay, we tried to get to this recap of the Eastern Illinois and Tennessee Tech game on Friday but the day just slipped away from us. We did get to sneak in and watch the Panther swimming teams take the men's and women's meet victory over IUPUI on Friday afternoon. They are hosting Missouri State on Saturday morning.

Now to the recap of the basketball games... Both came down to the wire and were just about as exciting as the Air Elite Dunkers show put on at halftime of both games. If you have not seen these fellas perform in person then you are missing out on some top notch aerobatics with a basketball.

Sydney Mitchell gets our nod in this game. Ta'Kenya Nixon did lead the Panthers with 15 points but Mitchell was aggressive on the glass pulling down 11 rebounds. Head coach Brady Sallee mentioned that EIU needs to make sure it wins the battle on the boards and Mitchell helped EIU do that. She also had 8 points.

* Despite the loss EIU didn't loss any ground in the OVC standings. EIU remains in fifth place just behind Austin Peay who also lost on Thursday at EKU. The Lady Govs play at Morehead State on Saturday and with a loss there, either EIU or Jacksonville State could move into a tie for fourth. Both EIU and JSU are 5-5.

* Free throws plagued the Panthers for the third time this season in a close game. It was the third time this year that EIU had shot below 60 percent from the stripe and it hurt in a 60-56 loss to TTU. Other sub-60 percent games this year have been close losses to Western Michigan in the season opener and versus UNC Greensboro at the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament.

* EIU can play with anyone in the OVC and the league tournament will be wide open as I think on neutral court any of the teams can beat any of the other ones on a given day. EIU does need to secure a top four seed to probably earn that OVC Tournament Championship as the limited bench the Panthers are playing with right now probably does not bode well for a four games in four days run in Nashville.

Jeremy Granger was a no-brainer on this selection. He just missed becoming the first EIU player since Jake Byrne on Feb. 28, 2008 to score 30 or more points in a game as he finished with 29 in the 77-74 loss to TTU. Granger did get his first career double-double with 10 rebounds.

* EIU has played more close OVC games already this season (7) than in any other OVC season since joining the league in 1996-97. The previous high was six in five different years. We define close games by four points or less.

* You can probably book it that Granger has taken more last second potential game winning or tying shots than anyone else in an EIU season. By my count he has had at least six but I may have missed one or two in my quick math.

* Freshman Alfonzo McKinnie should be poised to get some good minutes on Saturday against Jacksonville State. In fact based on his performance against Tennessee Tech on Thursday and head coach Mike Miller's knack for shifting starting line-ups this season, McKinnie may even be in the mix for a start.

Tonight is the NABC Coaches vs. Cancer Awareness Game. Coaches around the nation will wear sneakers with their suits. Look for it on a game near you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Trending Towards Another OVC Title

As the calendar days turn from January to February we take a look at Eastern Illinois men's and women's track as they appear on course to win yet another Ohio Valley Conference Championship.

The men have been the dominant program in the OVC since joining in 1996-97 with 12 indoor championships to their credit and 11 outdoor titles. The Panthers have currently won two straight as they prepare to host the OVC Championships on Feb. 25-26 at Lantz Fieldhouse.

The EIU women have been developing into the top program in the league over the past couple of years taking home three of the last four indoor and outdoor championships. EIU has currently won two straight titles.

This past Saturday EIU hosted its annual Mega Meet picking up 11 first place individual finishes as the EIU men climbed to No. 11 in the Midwest Regional rankings. EIU will compete at the Illinois Intercollegiate this Saturday with regional teams Illinois (No. 1) and Southern Illinois (No. 6) slated to compete.

If the season ended today EIU would have first place finishes in eight of the sixteen scheduled events at the OVC Championships. Our guess is that Zye Boey would be named the OVC Male Athlete of the Championships as he holds the top times in the 60m and 200m. Boey is ranked nationally in both events. Mick Viken who would win the pole vault is also ranked nationally.

The women's title would be a little more difficult as the Panthers only would have three first place finishes based on current marks. EIU's Erika Ramos is first in the 800m while Abigail Schmitz has the best pole vault to date. Our guess for the athlete of the championships is wide open as no athlete has posted more than one individual first place time so far this season.

In only five short weeks our guesses will be put to the test when EIU hosts the OVC Championships with the Panthers looking to make it three straight titles for both the men and women.

P.S. -- Kudos to former EIU & Olympic triple jumper John Craft for being honored with a retired jersey on Saturday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

EIU - UT Martin Recap

Two games that Eastern Illinois seemed to have in hand late in the second half. At the end of the day, two games that EIU walked away from shaking their head after two last second losses. The folks at UT Martin definitely got their value for their ticket dollar last night.

The EIU women led by 15 points with 10:03 left in the contest and held a ten point lead with 4:05 remaining. UT Martin closed the game on a 14-2 run including a jumper by Jasmine Newsome with two seconds left that gave the Skyhawks a 80-78 win.

The EIU men led by 10 points at just about the same point in the game before UT Martin took its first lead of the game with 4:09 left. EIU regained the lead and it was back-and-forth for the final four minutes. Benzor Simmons hit a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left that proved to be the game winner for UTM in a 63-62 win.

The OVC standings took a little bit of hit on Saturday as the Panther women dropped to fifth in the OVC race with a 5-4 record. They host first place Tennessee Tech on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Tech is 8-1. EIU then hosts Jacksonville State on Saturday at 4 p.m. JSU sits right behind EIU in sixth place with a 4-5 conference mark.

The EIU men could have climbed into a four way tie for fourth place with a win but instead sit alone in seventh place with a 4-5 record. EIU hosts Tennessee Tech on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Tech is one of those teams just above EIU tied for fourth with a 5-4 mark. On Saturday EIU faces Jacksonville State at 6 p.m. The Gamecocks are currently 0-9 in the conference.

Kelsey Wyss had an outstanding night shooting ball as she finished with 17 points hitting five 3-pointers. Wyss was 6-of-10 from the floor, pulled down six rebounds and chipped in with three assists and five steals.

* UT Martin has two of the best of freshman in the league as they combination of Jasmine Newsome and Heather Butler combined for 55 of the team's 80 points.

* EIU had good balance on the glass as four players finished with six or more rebounds led by Ta'Kenya Nixon with eight. EIU won the overall rebound battle and lost a rare game in which they won that statistical category.

* Kelsey Wyss is a 3-pointer shooter that can get very hot, very quickly. For the third or fourth time this season Wyss has rattled off several 3-pointers in a row in transition that have helped the Panthers build leads. She knocked down 5-of-9 on Saturday at UT Martin.

EIU had a good deal of balance at UT Martin but we selected Curry McKinney based on the fact that he posted his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Had a different Panther converted a game winning shot, then their name would have been inserted here.

* EIU allowed too many offensive rebounds and second chances in the game. The Panthers allowed ten first half offensive rebounds to UT Martin which allowed the Skyhawks to stick around despite shooting 35 percent in the half. EIU had shot 56 percent but only led 33-30 at the break.

* Head coach Mike Miller is looking for ways to try and rest guard Jeremy Granger even within the playing of a game. Miller had other players bring the ball up the floor against UT Martin to try and distribute some of the game load off of Granger's shoulders. Granger still played 38 minutes.

* EIU allowed its fourth double digit lead of the season slip away in the second half. Part of it has been the Panthers probably being a little fatigued and losing some senior leadership with Tyler Laser out.

Always one of the best parts of any road trip. This trip we stopped at McAlister's Deli in Paducah. Always a good upscale sandwich stop. Once we arrived at UT Martin we learned BBQ is alive and well in Northwest Tennessee as we were told about a local joint called Damron's Meat Market that offers a killer BBQ spread for lunch. Thursday and Friday is evidently $8.99 all you can eat. Next time we venture down there, it will be on the list.

*** Later this week we take a look at the recent home track Mega Meet and give some insight on the track season to date. EIU host's the OVC Championships the final weekend in February. ***

Friday, January 21, 2011

EIU - Murray State Recap

The Panthers picked up a split on the road at Murray State on Thursday with the men winning 61-60 while the women dropped a 71-64 decision. Both teams return to action on Saturday at UT Martin.

The women's game will feature two teams vying for top four positions in the OVC race -- UT Martin is currently tied for 2nd (6-2)... EIU is currently tied for 4th (5-3).

The men's game will feature two teams on current OVC win streaks. EIU has won two straight knocking off Morehead State and Murray State to improve to 4-4 and move into 6th place in the league standings. UT Martin has also won two straight beating Jacksonville State and Southeast Missouri to stand at 2-7 in the OVC.

Our men's player of the game is Jeremy Granger. Granger matched his season high for points at 18 with the most important two points coming with 3.2 seconds left as his floater in the lane won the contest. Granger was also 4-of-4 from the free throw line as he ranks 9th in the NCAA in that category this year.

* Free throws do indeed count... The EIU men made 15-of-19 (79 percent). Murray State made 18-of-32 (56 percent). Those shooting percentages probably helped decide the game as much as any action on the court.

* The Panthers can play defense... We were pretty sure EIU could play good defense when they shut down Morehead State last week limiting them to 40 points and holding NBA prospect Kenneth Faried to five points. Against Murray State they shut down the whole team not allowing a Murray State field goal in the final 10:17 of the game.

* New intentional foul rule is not decisive... This year a point of emphasis was made on any flagrant throws of the elbow by a player would result in a technical and possible ejection. On Thursday Matt Dorlack was called for one but not by an official that actually saw the play. Matt appeared to be clearing the ball to an open man at the top of the key and made contact with a MSU player. The officials called time out. Went to the monitor and then after several minutes of discussion decided it was a technical foul. I like the rule, but I think as with many calls - you either saw it or you didn't. The TV should not determine fouls.

Jordyne Crunk was our nominee for this after she poured in a career high 14 points at Murray State. Crunk played a team-high 36 minutes and was immediately called to action after Ta'Kenya Nixon drew two quick fouls in the first three minutes of the game.

* Balance equals wins... While the focus of EIU's offense has been good post player point production, EIU seems to be most effective when some other players can step up and produce. Against Murray State - Ta'Kenya Nixon and Mariah King provided 30 points and Crunk had 14 off the bench but EIU probably needs a fourth scorer on a regular basis to step up.

* Robinson at Murray can score... Mariah Robinson put up 45 points against Jacksonville State the week prior to playing EIU. In the first half against the Panthers she appeared headed for that elite range once again with 23 first half points. EIU did a good job of holding her to only six second half points but that focus probably allowed some other players to have better games than average.

* Tough place to win... Murray State has always been a tough place to win for both the EIU men and women. It proved to be so once again for the women's team on Thursday.

Always one of the most important factors on any trip. We battled the snow storm most of the way down to Murray and our hats go off to the road crews for quickly taking care of I-57 in Illinois and I-24 in Illinois/Kentucky. Since we were not quite sure how long we had for lunch, we popped in at Back Yard Burgers in Paducah and it was good fast food stop as always. This particular BYB offers fresh cobbler for desert... Cherry was the choice of the day.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

EIU - Morehead State Recap

Eastern Illinois picked up an Ohio Valley Conference split for the third straight series of conference games and this time it was the men's basketball team picking up the win while the women's team suffered a defeat. It was the first January loss for the EIU women's team since Jan. 22, 2009 when they fell to Murray State, a run of 15 games.

Up next for both teams will be a doubleheader at Murray State on Thursday.



Isaac Smith a freshman guard from Chicago was our selection for player of the game as he finished with nine points as the Panthers picked up a 47-40 win over Morehead. Smith hit five of six free throws in the first half that helped the Panthers cut into an early MSU lead. He also had a big second half bucket.


1.) EIU can slap on the defense... The Panthers set a Lantz Arena record for fewest combined points in a game - 87. The previous record was 89 set back in January 1978 when UW Green Bay won 45-44 over EIU. The 40 points by Morehead State was the lowest total by a Division I school and was the lowest total by a visiting team in Lantz.

2.) EIU shut down NBA prospect Kenneth Faried holding the Wooden Award candidate to only five points with five NBA teams at the game to watch him.

3.) Jeremy Granger hit double figures for his 11th straight game finishing with a game-high 17. He knocked down 4-of-4 from the free throw line.


For the locals it was nice to see Chicago Bulls general manager John Paxson in the house as one of the NBA scouts. Also former Providence College star Dickey Simpkins.



Ta'Kenya Nixon takes home our player of the game honors. The sophomore guard doesn't know how to lose and worked as hard as possible to keep that from happening with 22 points. At times she took over the game but still it was not enough during the 77-73 loss to Morehead State.


1.) The Panthers suffered a rare home loss as they fell to 5-2 in the OVC. The loss dropped EIU into three-way tie for third place in the conference race with UT Martin and Austin Peay. The Panthers play at UT Martin on Saturday.

2.) Freshman Jordyne Crunk scored 12 points for the second straight game as guard has started to provide an offensive punch off the bench.

3.) Sydney Mitchell was a force on the glass for the second straight game with 11 rebounds. Mitchell had nine rebounds on Thursday against Eastern Kentucky just missing her first career double-double.

EIU - EKU Recap

Eastern Illinois women's and men's basketball again earned a split in an Ohio Valley Conference doubleheader as they hosted Eastern Kentucky on Thursday night at Lantz Arena. The EIU women picked up a 70-61 win as they moved into a first place tie for the OVC lead. The EIU men lost 63-49 to fall to eighth in the OVC men's race. The top eight teams in the OVC make the tournament in Nashville. Jacksonville State and UT Martin on the men's side are both win less right now.

Our selection was Jordyne Crunk who scored a career high 12 points coming off the bench. Crunk knocked down both of her 3-point attempts and has now made four in a row from beyond the arc after a long stretch of not making any. On a night where head coach Brady Sallee really shortened the bench, Crunk provided much needed offense.

1.) - EIU rallied for win its first game of the season in which it trailed at halftime. The Panthers had been 0-6 in previous contests they trailed at the half. The last come from behind win was Feb. 20, 2010 against Murray State.

2.) - Sydney Mitchell nearly collected her first career double-double falling short with 15 points and 9 rebounds.

3.) - The Panthers have some additional scoring punch coming to the line-up, the problem is it will not be available until after the fall 2011 semester. Katlyn Payne, a former All-State selection in Florida and Illinois, has transferred into the EIU program.

Jeremy Granger was our selection based mainly on the fact that he accounted for just under a third of the Panthers total offense with 15 points. EIU only scored 49 for the game. Granger knocked down a couple of 3's to show an extended range. His free throw streak did end at 18 straight with a second half miss.

1.) EIU needs a second and third player to consistently step up and score points. Granger has taken over the role of top scorer with the loss of Tyler Laser but EIU needs another consistent threat or teams will just collapse on Granger for the remainder of the year.

2.) Freshman Alfonzo McKinnie should be a good player for EIU as he continues to develop. He is by far the most athletic player recruited in the Mike Miller era but needs to get a feel for the Panthers offensive system and he made easily develop into a double figure scorer on a routine basis.

3.) EIU needs someone to step up and decide they want to be the guy who gets all the rebounds. For the last four years Ousmane Cisse was that guy as he would battle for every ball in the middle.

Well since we had a home game this was not an option this go round. However Two Flowers in Charleston did provide the catering on the Panther Patio.



Sunday, January 9, 2011

The SEMO Trip

Eastern Illinois basketball ended the day with a split at Southeast Missouri on Saturday. The win by the EIU women improved them to 4-1 in the OVC. The men fell at SEMO dropping to 2-3 in the league.

Here's our take on the women's game which EIU won 68-43.

Player of the Game

Ta'Kenya Nixon was the star for the Panthers in this contest collecting her third double-double of the season. Nixon had 13 points and 12 rebounds (6 offensive, 6 defensive). While her career high at this point is only 25, you see glimpses that at some point in her Panther career Nixon could score 40 in a night.

What We Learned

* EIU responded well as they fell behind SEMO 7-0 in the opening minutes and couldn't find a shot to fall. Nixon scored the next seven points for EIU as the Panthers posted an 18-0 run and never looked back.

* Mariah King returned to form as she scored a game high 17 points marking the 13th time this season she has scored in double figures.

* When the Panthers can win the battle on the boards they usually win. EIU won the battle on the glass by a 39-28 margin including 14 offensive boards.

Up Next

EIU will host Eastern Kentucky on Thursday followed by a big show down with Morehead State on Saturday at 4 p.m. That game could be for the leg up in the early OVC standings.

Now here is our quick take on the men's game which EIU dropped 78-75 contest.

Player of the Game

Shaun Pratl was the Panthers player of the game helping EIU pick up a 44-29 halftime lead with nine of his 15 coming in the first half. In a physical game taking the ball down low proved to be the difference in the game.

What We Learned

* The officials were going to credit drives to the basket. 61 total fouls were called (37 on EIU, 24 on SEMO). EIU shot 23 free throws, SEMO was awarded 44 free throws.

* The Panthers featured some balance on the night as all 12 players in uniform scored. Three players finished in double figures.

* Jeremy Granger increased his consecutive free throw streak to 17 with a pair of makes late in the contest.

Up Next

At the start of the season many thought the Panthers Saturday contest with Morehead State might be a crucial game to see if EIU could make a jump into the top two in the league. Instead due to some injuries this week's Thursday contest with Eastern Kentucky is probably more important as both teams are looking for wins to help lock up a top eight OVC finish to make the tourney.

Where We Ate

When we make these road trips with the team we will through in our stop along the way for food - just in case you are making the same trip in the future. We hit 17th Street BBQ in Marion on the way down. Had the Pulled Pork Sandwich which was great as always along with some creamed corn and baked beans.

Tidbit of the Day
I was following the Mid-Majority on Twitter during the game and they person doing the hits for the day was catching a doubleheader at the Gentile Center in Chicago. While the gym is the home for Division I Loyola-Chicago since it sits on the Loyola campus just off of Lakeshore Drive. It also serves as the home basketball court for Robert Morris College of Chicago - an NAIA member of Chicagoland Collegiate Conference. While Loyola lost at home to Wright State, Robert Morris blew out East-West University 122-80. If you thought school's had issues with being directional with just one name like Eastern, Western or Northern - how confused do you think fans of East-West University are. By the way its located in Chicago on the South Loop.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year, New Blog!!!

Happy Belated New Year Panther Nation... Sorry we have been away for a while but with a new year we have a new blog. Going to try something a little different this go round (a format we liked from a couple other sites - notably ESPN.com).

It also helps that we have some new help in the media relations office here at EIU.

Today's blog focuses on yesterday's women's basketball win at SIU Edwardsville. Panthers picked up an 84-78 win over the Cougars.

Notes from the win...
* first OT game for the Panthers since 2009 OVC Tournament Championship Game

* Kelsey Wyss may be developing into the go-to shooter in end of game situations (she drained a 3-pointer to tie the game with 2.7 seconds left)

* Bench points don't always matter (EIU's bench was outscored 40-9, but still won).

* EIU led by double digits on several occasions before SIUE rallied to eventually take a late lead, EIU tied it late before pulling away for the win.

Player of the Game
We choose two in the contest for two various reasons... Kelsey Wyss for the above mention reason and the fact that she tossed in a career high 19 points. We also selected Hillary Held who scored only four points, but they all came in overtime as EIU outscored SIUE 8-2 in the extra frame. Held also had five of her career high nine rebounds in overtime.

Where We Ate
Just to add a little interest we will toss in the local joints we were able to scout out. Scout out being the important phrase here as we had to look around and drive about 10-15 minutes off campus to find a place to eat. We eventually found Laurie's Place - Chill-n-Grill-n-Tunes... Not a bad little hang out and good burgers. Tuesday and Wednesday are evidently the best days for food specials (50-cent mini burgers and 25-cent tacos) on those nights.

Next On Tap
EIU women's basketball improved to 7-7 on the season and despite not playing a league game moved to within a half-game of first place in the OVC race. EIU plays Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Southeast Missouri. The men's game follows at 6 p.m. Both games air on Hit Mix 88.9 FM