By Cameron Blair
Eastern’s men’s basketball team snapped their four-game losing streak with a 67-56 win on the road against Eastern Illinois Saturday at Lantz arena.The victory also got the Colonels back to .500 in OVC play with a 4-4 mark.
Head Coach Jeff Neubauer seemed to be pleased with his team’s performance down the stretch.
“It was very good for the team to get back into the left side of the column,” Neubauer said. “It was really important for the team to find a way to win.”
Eastern got off to a quick start in the first half. The Colonels began the game with a 14-4 run. Sophomore point guard Adam Leonard connected on two 3-point attempts during the spurt. Leonard finished the game with a team-high 16 points.
“Adam is a tremendous shooter, but he struggled with his shot earlier in the season,” Neubauer said. “We certainly need him to be able to put it in to be successful.”
After taking their largest lead of the half at 21-6, Eastern went cold. The Colonels made only one field goal during the last eight minutes of the first half and led the Panthers 26-18 at the break.
Eastern came out of the gate strong, beginning the second half like the first. The Colonels built an 11-point cushion midway through the second half at 46-35. Eastern Illinois responded with a 10-2 run to trim the deficit to three points at 48-45.
That was as close as the Panthers would get. Eastern answered the Panthers’ run with 3-pointers from Leonard and freshman Justin Stommes to push the lead to seven at 57-50.
The Colonels relied on clutch free-throw shooting the rest of the way. Eastern’s players hit each of their 10 free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.
The Colonels also made 23 of their 25 free throws (91.3 percent) on the night.
Senior Darnell Dialls connected on five of his six attempts from the line on his way to scoring 13 points. The big man also grabbed six rebounds during the game.
Eastern’s role players also stepped up in the game to get the team back into the win column. Sophomore Josh Daniel came off the bench to score 12 points, including three trifectas.
Neubauer said Daniel brought a lot more to the game than his scoring ability.
“Josh had his best game as a college player,” Neubauer said. “He scored 12 points, which was good, but he also defended very well, passed the ball well and just competed out there.”
Sophomore Josh Taylor also made his presence felt, especially on the glass, in his first start of the season. The forward scored nine points to go along with a career-high nine rebounds.
“He really stuck his nose in there and did a good job of rebounding the ball,” Neubauer said.
The Colonels will look to get back over the .500 mark in OVC play when they face Jacksonville State (4-12, 2-6 OVC) at McBrayer Arena Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.