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.
WOMEN'S PLAYER OF THE GAME
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.
WOMEN'S GAME WHAT WE LEARNED
* 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.
MEN'S PLAYER OF THE GAME
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.
MEN'S GAME WHAT WE LEARNED
* 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.
WHERE WE ATE
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. ***