With its top four scorers from last season returning, Eastern Illinois had the potential to improve upon its 11-21 record (6-10 OVC) in 2013-14. But if Jay Spoonhour’s Panthers are to accomplish that goal, they’ll do so without the services of leading scorer Morris Woods.
It was announced Wednesday that the 6-3 guard has been dismissed from the EIU basketball program after averaging 11.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a junior.
“He was dismissed from the university and we’re trying to find a new school for him,” coach Jay Spoonhour said. “I really like Morris and the year he had last year and I hope for nothing but the best for him.”
Eastern Illinois averaged an OVC-worst 60.4 points per game, with their 0.99 points per possession average ranking ninth in the conference. The Panthers won five of their final eight regular season games to earn a spot in the OVC tournament, and Woods’ improvement as a scorer was one reason why.
Woods averaged 15.9 points per game during that stretch (he missed EIU’s 58-50 win at Chicago State on February 26), shooting 57.7% from the field. On the season Woods converted 51% of his field goal attempts.
Eastern Illinois will not lack for options when it comes to replacing Woods however, as sophomore Alex Austin (9.2 ppg as a freshman) returns and the well-traveled Reggie Smith (has played at both Marquette and UNLV) will be eligible to play after sitting out last season.
Forwards Sherman Blanford (10.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Josh Piper (10.2, 4.4) are the Panthers’ two leading returnees from last season’s roster.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: