EIU Begins New Era With New Coach

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Published on October 23 2012 1:40 pm
Last Updated on October 23 2012 1:40 pm
Written by Millie Lange

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – With a roster containing a mix of new players and returning players that combined to start 12 games last season, Eastern Illinois men’s basketball will begin a New ERA with a new head coach, Jay Spoonhour, and a new look to its roster.

The Panthers finished 12-17 overall last season, 5-11 in the OVC.  On Tuesday the Ohio Valley Conference released its preseason coaches poll and preseason All-OVC teams with the Panthers picked to finish fifth in the West Division.

With the addition of Belmont University to the OVC this year, the conference now has 12 members and will play as two divisions.  Defending OVC Champion Murray State was picked as the West Division preseason favorite with 22 first place votes.  Southeast Missouri was second followed by Austin Peay, SIU Edwardsville, Eastern Illinois and UT Martin.

Belmont was picked to win the East Division with 21 first place votes.  Tennessee State was second followed by Tennessee Tech, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky.  Jacksonville State is not eligible for the OVC Tournament this season based on APR issues and was not counted in the East Division preseason standings.

The OVC Tournament will once again take place in Nashville, March 6-9 at Municipal Auditorium.  The top eight teams finishing based on conference record regardless of division will advance to the tournament with the two division winners being seeded first and second.

Isaiah Canaan was named the OVC Preseason Player of the Year as the league selected ten members to its preseason squad.

Eastern Illinois will open the 2012-13 season with an exhibition game on Nov. 5 against Trinity International.  The Panthers open the regular season on Nov. 9 at Bradley and will host Wright State on Nov. 13 in the home opener at Lantz Arena.

Panther fans can get their first look at this year’s EIU squad at Blue Madness on Oct. 31 at Lantz Arena.  This tip off event begins at 7 p.m. with trick-or-treating and Halloween themed games for fans of all ages before the introduction of the EIU basketball teams at 7:30 p.m.  Admission to the event is free.

Sophomore Josh Piper is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder with 4.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.  Piper was named one of the Top 20 players in the OVC by College Sports Madness earlier this week.

Senior guard Austin Akers is the top returning player in terms of playing time with six starts last year as he led the team in assist-to-turnover ratio with 63 assists compared to only 28 turnovers in 29 games played.