By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels rebounded from Thursday’s loss at UT-Martin to pick up a big come-from-behind 81-72 win over Southeast Missouri State Saturday in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
EKU (17-6, 7-3 OVC) used a 15-2 run to come from six points down late in the first half and beginning of the second to take a seven-point lead.
SEMO scored six straight a few minutes later to pull within one with 9:24 left.
But the Colonels answered with an 11-2 run to regain control and led 71-61 with 4:30 left after two free throws by Eric Stutz.
SEMO got as close as five with less than a minute to play, but the Colonels hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said he was proud of the way the team bounced back after the tough loss Thursday at UT-Martin.
“This team has been on one of these two-game road trips three times. Unfortunately we’ve lost the first, but we’ve been resilient enough to win the second all three times,” Neubauer said in a radio interview. “You probably can’t find five teams in the country that have bounced back like that on day prep, so our guys do have something special when it comes to that.”
Stutz was one of five Colonels in double figures, and played the best game of his career. He recorded the first double-double by a Colonel this season, finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high seven blocked shots playing against two of the best rebounders in the league — SEMO’s A.J. Jones and Tyler Stone.
“Eric was playing against grown men, these guys are tremendous rebounders and Eric was just ferocious in there,” Neubauer said. “He got a bloody lip but he kept going after it. They kept attacking in there and he didn’t pick up fouls. He was aggressive with his defense and the rebounds really do matter to our team.”
Glenn Cosey had a team-high 21 points, while Mike DiNunno had 18 points and three assists. Tarius Johnson finished with 14 points and seven rebound and Marcus Lewis had 10 points, including a flying one-handed alley-oop dunk.
The Colonels defense was a big reason they left Cape Girardeau with the win. After the Redhawks shot 60 percent in the first half, with Corey Wilford collecting 21 points, Neubauer said the Colonels responded to his call for tighter defense in the second half, holding SEMO to 35.7 percent shooting.
“We were aggressive guarding the ball in the first half, we were getting in passing lanes and disrupting passes, they were just beating us one-on-one and making tough shots,” Neubauer said. “The point I made to our guys at the half was, ‘You’ve got to guard the ball as if your are on an island and no one is there.’ In the second half we guarded the ball like we had no help and Marcus Lewis was the best at and that made a difference.”
Early in the game it was Tarius Johnson and Cosey that kept the Colonels in the game, with both hitting double figures.
The second half, DiNunno took control of the Colonels’ offense and it was his play at the point that was the turning point, Neubauer said.
“Mike just does a great job of running this team. He took some ridiculous shots, some tough shots, but he is really whey we won the game,” Neubauer said. “He was pulling up on a defender at 10 to 15 feet and he continually shot them in and that was what allowed us to get the separation and win the game.”
Corey Walden finished with four points and Jeff Johnson had two points.
The Colonels shot 52.8 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from behind the three-point line. They held the Redhawks to 47.2 percent from the field for the game and only 25 percent from behind the arc.
The win was the 500th all-time OVC win for the Colonels and was Neubauer’s 135th win as EKU coach, tying him with Rome Rankin for second all time behind Paul S. McBrayer.
The Colonels return home Tuesday to take on Crowley’s Ridge College at 7 p.m.