The IUPUI men’s basketball team had their 2018-2019 season home-opener at the Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum against the Eastern Illinois University Panthers. The Jaguars looked to redeem themselves against the Panthers, who beat the Jaguars 80-79 last season. IUPUI got its revenge with a 71-65 victory.
Cameron Justice started the game off with by banking in a 3-pointer. Elijah Goss and Evan Hall established physical presences down low early. Goss pulled down three defensive rebounds early, and contributed his own 3-pointer to keep the Panthers on their toes. Hall dominated the competition strength-wise, backing defenders down on the baseline block. The Jags jumped out 8-0 lead within the first three minutes. Jaylen Minnett and Ahmed Ismail entered the game around the 15 minute mark to enhance the defense and keep the Panthers off their feet, causing three Panther traveling violations.
The Panthers responded by deploying a press which resulted in a Jaguars scoring drought for just over eight minutes. With 9 minutes left in the first half, the Panthers took their first and only short lived lead of the game when EIU’s Mack Smith hit a three to go up 11-9. That lead lasted all of 29 seconds before the Jags mounted a second offensive assault.
The game flow and scoring dramatically increased from there with the Jaguars’ Grant Weatherford orchestrating a run by knocking down consecutive shots, a three-pointer and a layup. Freshman sharpshooter Jack Hansen contributed with his own three-pointer as well, which seemed to panic the Panthers into committing more ball handling errors.
With four minutes left in the first half, Cameron Justice and D.J. McCall forced the Panthers into fouling to prevent an onslaught of easy scores with aggressive drives to the basket. The Jaguars finished the half leading 35-31.
“I think a lot of it was just nerves and emotions,” IUPUI Head Coach Jason Gardner said of the first half. “It was the first home game and the guys were just amped up. I thought they took some quick shots and that we just needed to slow down, and from there the emotions just went away.”
The second half wasn’t an easy start for Weatherford, who had two turnovers on the first two possessions. Elijah Goss further cemented the Jaguars dominance, placing his stamp of approval in the paint with a monster one-step dunk off the Cameron Justice dribble-drive assist.
“I’m just that guy that delivers energy for the team” Goss said. “It can be in any way, a dunk, rebounding, blocks, anything.”
Goss delivered on his words, finishing with eight points, 10 rebounds, and two blocked shots. The Jaguars went up 48-34 by the fifteen minute mark in the second half. The Panthers stayed relentless in their attack against Jags center Ahmed Ismail, getting him to his fourth foul with 12:03 left in the second half, and later for him to foul out. Ismail only played four minutes on the night.
Justice lead the Jaguars on scoring on the night with 21. Weatherford finished with 14 points on 5 of 5 shooting and four assists
“I thought it was a close game where [the team] fought to the end”, Coach Gardner said. “They stayed together and found a way to come out with the win.”
The Jaguars hit the road again to face Boston College on Nov 14 and the Richmond on Nov 16 in the Fort Myers Tip-Off Tournament.