By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels (13-3, 3-0 OVC) used some big runs on offense and some tremendous defense the entire game to post a big 77-65 win over defending OVC champion Murray State (11-4, 2-1 OVC) Wednesday in Murray.
The win snaps a seven-game losing streak to Murray State and keeps the Colonels atop the OVC East standings heading into Saturday’s showdown against rival Morehead State.
The Colonels, who were playing without leading scorer Glenn Cosey, who sat out the contest with an injury, got big contributions from a lot of people.
Mike DiNunno and Corey Walden paced the Colonels offense with 20 points each, while Tarius Johnson also finished in double-figures with a career high 17 points and a team-leading seven rebounds.
“Murray is always tremendous and they have a really outstanding team this year, but our guys really did compete and I thought our guys played really hard,” EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said in a radio interview. “We want to play harder and harder as this year goes on and we had a lot of guys step up and do just that. We told the guys afterward that we were proud of them and how hard they played in the game.”
EKU scored the first seven points of the game only to see Murray State get going and score the next nine points in only 48 seconds to take an 11-7 lead.
A Jeff Johnson three-pointer ignited an incredible 24-0 run that gave the Colonels a 31-11 lead with 6:25 left in the half.
But, All-American Isaiah Canaan finally got on track and the Racers began to climb back into it, cutting the Colonels lead to 39-25 at the half.
The second half was once again a tale of runs.
The Racers used an 8-0 run to get within nine eight at 41-33, but once again the Colonels had an answer.
A Tarius Johnson three pointer began a 12-2 run by the Colonels to push the lead back out to 53-35 with mid-way through the half.
The Colonels then slowly extended their lead out to as much as 22 points on an Orlando Williams three-pointer with just more than seven minutes left before Murray State once again got hot.
Canaan, Jeffrey Moss and Stacy Wilson hit consecutive three-pointers during a 16-0 Racers run that cut the Colonels lead down to five at 67-62 with less than four minutes to go.
But Walden and DiNunno combined to hit eight free throws down the stretch to seal the win for the Colonels.
Neubauer said the Colonels defense, which was superb all night, making 11 steals and forcing the Racers into 17 turnovers, was the difference in the game.
“All we wrote on the board before coming out was, ‘Our Defense.’ And that is what we have been working on now for 16 games,” Neubauer said. “The transition points made all the difference. We did not change our defense from what we have been doing for 15 games other than telling our guys, ‘Hey, listen. The guy with the ball is the one that is going to try to score.’ Our guys did a good job with that gameplan and doing a good job of guarding the guy with the ball.”
Several other Colonels played huge rolls in the win as well.
Marcus Lewis, who finished with six-points, three assists and five steals, seemed to come up with big baskets each time it seemed like the Colonels were in trouble and Murray State had the momentum.
Orlando Williams had five points and Jeff Johnson added seven. But they combined with Eric Stutz on defense to hold Murray’s second-leading scorer and the OVC’s best rebounder, Ed Daniel, who came into the game averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds, to only four points and six boards.
“Marcus Lewis played very well, playing a position at times, the two guard, that he has only practiced for two days. He not only competed well, but he also just kept us within the flow at a new position,” Neubauer said. “Corey Walden seems to get a quiet 20 points and Tarius as well. I didn’t realize he had 17 points. Jeff and Eric and Orlando all played good defense. We got a lot of good effort by a lot of guys.”
The Colonels, who had struggled on the boards all season, finished even with the Racers with 29 rebounds apiece.
The Colonels shot 50.9 percent from the field while holding the Racers to 42.6 percent from the field and 38 percent from behind the three-point line.
EKU committed six fewer turnovers than the Racers, and held a 29-9 advantage on points-off-turnovers.
The Colonels return to action on Saturday when Morehead State comes to McBrayer Arena. Tip off is at 7 p.m.
Austin Peay beats Morehead State in OT, 84-81
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Travis Betran scored 20 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer with one second left to lift Austin Peay past Morehead State 84-81 in overtime Wednesday night in an Ohio Valley Conference showdown.
Will Triggs added 20 points, Anthony Campbell had 14, and Thomas Greer chipped in with 11 for Austin Peay (5-12, 1-2).
After Triggs’ free throw put the Governors ahead 72-70 with just 11 seconds remaining in the second period, Drew Kelly converted a layup for Morehead State to tie it with two seconds left to send the game into overtime.