By Cameron Blair
One word can be used to describe Eastern’s men’s basketball team’s performance during winter break: inconsistent.Eastern won two consecutive games after losing to Western Kentucky Dec. 8 to start the break. However, the Colonels followed the two wins with a four game losing streak.
Eastern’s two wins were both against OVC opponents. The Colonels defeated Eastern Illinois and Tennessee-Martin by scores of 72-69 and 70-51, respectively.
Senior Darnell Dialls played the role of hero in the victory against Eastern Illinois. The senior big man tied his career high in points, scoring 25. Dialls also hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the game.
Junior forward Mike Rose also scored 25 points in the Colonel victory.
Despite allowing the Panthers to make close to 50 percent of their shots, the Colonels were able to get the win. Taking care of the basketball was a big part of the Colonel victory. Eastern had only two turnovers during the game.
Head Coach Jeff Neubauer said being efficient is one of the keys to the team’s success.
“We have to have detailed execution out there,” Neubauer said.
Eastern relied on balanced scoring and tight defense to get a 70-51 win against Tennessee-Martin.
Each of the nine Colonels players scored during the game, with Rose leading the way with 18 points.
Rose also connected on a team-high four 3-pointers during the game.
Eastern also moved the ball well on offense. The Colonels racked up 24 assists and turned the ball over just 12 times during the contest. Sophomore guard Adam Leonard led the way with a career-high eight assists.
Junior reserve Ryan Wiersma came off the bench to spark the Colonels. Wiersma scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds, both season highs.
It was the Colonel defense, however, that held Tennessee-Martin in check. The Skyhawks made just six of their 20 field goal attempts in the first half, which was good for only 30 percent.
“Our defense was very good in that game,” Neubauer said. “We held Lester Hudson, one of the best scorers in the OVC, scoreless in the first half.”
Hudson got hot in the second half of the game, scoring 20 points. However, Eastern’s lead was never in serious jeopardy in the second half.
Eastern’s four game conference losing streak began with a 65-57 loss on the road to Austin Peay Dec. 22.
The Colonels are just 1-13 in their last 14 trips to Clarksville.
Eastern took the loss in the game despite making a season-high 13 3-pointers in the contest. Leonard made six of his 12 3-point attempts on his way to scoring a season-high 20 points.
Darnell Dialls chipped in with his second double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
“We were out of sync due to illness and injury,” Neubauer said. “We weren’t at full strength for the Austin Peay game.”
Freshman guard Justin Stommes missed the game with an illness and senior forward Jamaal Douglas left the game in the first half with a knee injury.
Eastern concluded the two-game road trip with a 66-55 defeat at the hands of Southeast Missouri.
The Colonels kept the score close throughout much of the game. Eastern trailed by six at halftime with a score of 31-25. Junior Mike Rose kept the Colonels in the game in the second half. The junior forward scored eight straight points to tie the game at 38.
However, the Redhawks were able to pull away with the score tied at 41. Southeast Missouri went on a 15-2 run to put the game out of reach.
Freshman Justin Stommes had one of the best games of his career in the loss. He scored a career- high 19 points and connected on four of his seven three-point attempts. Stommes also grabbed three steals in the game.
“The coaches have been on me to be more aggressive,” Stommes said. “I’m just trying to take pressure off of the other guys.”
Neubauer seemed really pleased with Stommes’ emergence.
“Justin really played well,” Neubauer said. “He’s always played with confidence and taken care of the ball, but now he’s looking for his shot.”
Eastern blew an eight point lead in the second half at home against Tennessee Tech on their way to a 75-64 defeat Jan. 5.
The Colonels took a 34-32 lead into halftime thanks to solid outside shooting and tight defense. Eastern made six of its 12 3-point attempts in the first half against the Golden Eagles.
Eastern also held Tennessee Tech’s offense in check during the first half. The Colonels held the Golden Eagles to 43.8 percent shooting and allowed Tennessee Tech to connect on just two of their nine 3-point attempts.
Sophomore forward Josh Daniel’s 3-pointer with 12:55 remaining in the second half gave the Colonels their largest lead at 50-42. However, the Golden Eagles were able to retake the lead with 5:55 left in the game after a layup made the score 58-57.
Tennessee Tech then scored 18 of the next 23 points to put the game out of reach. The Golden Eagles scored on nine straight possessions at one point and shot 65.4 percent from the field in the second half.
Neubauer said the Colonels’ defense has to be more consistent.
“Our defense has to get better,” Neubauer said. “We have some really good stretches like we did in the Tennessee Tech game, but we have to find a way to sustain the pressure for 40 minutes.”
Eastern extended their losing streak to four games with a 62-53 loss on the road to Morehead State Jan. 10.
Freshman John Lamb was the difference in the game. The Morehead State guard came off the bench to score 16 points in only 11 minutes of play to give the Eagles the win. Lamb made all five of his shots, including four 3-pointers and he hit all four of his free-throw attempts.
The Colonels used a strong defensive performance in the first half to take a 21-18 lead into half time. Morehead State shot just 24 percent in the first half of the game, making six of their 24 shot attempts.
Eastern was unable to get on track offensively in the first half, however. The Colonels committed 12 turnovers in the first half.
“We were sloppy in the first half, which is uncharacteristic of us,” Neubauer said. “We had stretches where we couldn’t execute well on offense.”
Eastern built an eight point lead midway through the second half, but saw their lead vanish for the second straight game. Morehead State took their first lead since the game’s opening minutes with 7:02 left to play.
Lamb then checked into the game for Morehead and took over down the stretch with his sharp shooting.
Three Colonels scored in double figures during the game. Darnell Dialls led the team with 16 points while Adam Leonard and Mike Rose chipped in with 15 points each. However, the Colonels bench struggled as only three other players got into the score column. Eastern’s bench players scored only four points in the game.