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IUPUI loses heartbreaker to Eastern Illinois, 80-79

Charleston, Ill. – IUPUI led the majority of the second half at Eastern Illinois Friday night. Leading by four with just under seven minutes to go, they come undone. The Jaguars committed five turnovers in the final seven minutes and sent Eastern Illinois to the line eight times. Two free throws from the Panthers with six seconds left and a turnover on the final IUPUI possession sealed the 80-79 loss for the Jaguars.

Aaron Brennan had his finest game as a Jaguar leading the team with 25 points and seven rebounds. It was his first career 20-point game and he did it shooting 12-for-17 from the field. Ron Patterson also tied his career high with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting. He added four rebounds and six assists. As a team, IUPUI shot 59.6 percent from the floor, a mark they eclipsed just twice last season.

Eastern Illinois was led by Terrell Lewis who also scored 25, but did it on just 10 shots, including 7-for-9 shooting from 3-point range.

Despite the superb offensive performance, the Jaguars couldn’t take care of the ball late, committing five of their 15 turnovers in the final seven minutes. They also sent Eastern Illinois to the line 31 times and were outscored at the line 23-3. The Jaguars had made a big improvement in their first two games at the line compared to last year. They shot 28-for-34 (82.3 percent) compared to last year’s 68.9 percent mark. They took a big step backwards though getting to the line just seven times and making less than half of those attempts. There are always going to be a wide array of things to blame a one-point loss on, but in a game where you get outscored by 20 at the line and shoot under 50 percent, free throws will always be the biggest culprit.

Evan Hall put in solid work after missing a game due to an ankle injury. He finished with 13 points and five rebounds, but shot just 1-for-4 from the line including 0-for-2 in the final minutes. With 2:13 remaining and his team down one he drew a foul, but missed the first free throw eliminating the chance for a second. D.J. McCall bailed him out with an offensive rebound and Hall scored on a layup drawing another foul, but missed the and-one chance. As one of the team’s leaders in ability to draw fouls and get to the line, they desperately need him to improve on his 39 percent career free-throw shooting.

Hall hardly owns all the blame though. McCall and T.J. Henderson each committed four turnovers and nobody other than Hall made it to the line more than twice.

Despite the mistakes, the good news is that Henderson has quickly established himself as a play-making ball handler and Brennan has emerged as a major scoring threat in the absence of last year’s top three scorers. Additionally, this was IUPUI’s first game with both McCall and Hall back in the lineup. Their next chance at full strength comes Tuesday when IUPUI takes on Morehead State at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

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