The Ohio University Eastern Men capped off a successful regular season Monday night knocking off Division III foe Franciscan University of Steubenville at Finnegan Field house. It was the Panthers first win against a DIII opponent since the opener of last season.
The Panthers started the game on fire jumping to an early eight nothing lead before the Barons could get untracked. Buckets by Barons freshman Sam Titus pulled his team back into the game giving FUS their first lead of the game with the score of nine eight by sinking a free throw at the 11:25 mark. The teams played evenly over the next seven minutes being tied at 21 with less than five minutes to go in the half but then the Panthers took control. After Barnesville's Josh Wells gave the Panthers back the lead, Beallsville grad Zach Tolzda stole the ensuing inbound and laid it in. Seconds later Caldwell's Jason Shaw swiped the ball from the Barons and a long outlet pass to Barnesville's Colin Hudson capping a Panthers rally. The teams would play trade bucket for the last three minutes of the half seeing Eastern carry a 35-27 cushion into the break.
Eastern came out firing in the second half behind Hudson. The Panthers steadily mounted a larger lead against the Barons getting strong inside play from West Muskingum grad Tim Theobald. After the Mean Green pushed their advantage to 15 the Barons appeared to be out of it, however with four minutes to go the Steubenville school made their move. A pair of treys by Manhattan Beach California's Josh Ducooulombier sandwiched a Panther turnover. The Barons stole another and a three by Senior Robert Slattery cut the Panthers lead to six. Just when the Barons built up their momentum they shot themselves in the foot. After stealing and errant Panthers pass Franciscan seemed prime to cut the lead to three, but a strong defensive play by Harrison Central's Dan Milleson gave the Panthers the ball back. A Fran U. player fouled Milleson as he recovered the ball and this sent Barons head coach Shawn Donovan over the edge. Donovan charged out onto the court pleading his case yelling at the officials resulting in an easy technical foul at the 2:09 mark. Shaw sunk the following free throws and on the resulting possession Milleson drained a three that proved to be the final dagger as the Panthers were back up by double digits. Eastern coasted out the final two minutes claiming the 81-65 victory.
With the win, the Panthers improved to 13-7 on the season headed into the ORC tourney. Five Panthers reached double digits on the evening, lead by Hudson's 23. Shaw contributed 12, Harrison Central's Dave Barcroft added 11, and Milleson and Theobald evenly divided 20.