The Richmond Register

March 2, 2014

OVC BASKETBALL: Colonels wrap up tourney bye with win over Tennessee State

By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer

RICHMOND — The Colonels (21-9, 11-5 OVC) picked up their fourth-straight win, 70-66, over Tennessee State (5-25, 4-12 OVC) Saturday on Senior Night in McBrayer Arena.

In another grind-it-out conference battle, the Colonels made the plays they needed down the stretch, coming up with a huge defensive stop at the end to pull out the win.

The Tigers whittled a 67-57 EKU lead down to only three and had the ball with 28.7 seconds remaining and a chance to tie the game.

TSU could do nothing against the Colonels smothering man-to-man defense, which deflected a Tigers pass out of bounds with 13.5 seconds left.

After a timeout, TSU ran a play for leading scorer Patrick Miller, who had 21 points in the game.

But, a great double-team by Corey Walden and Marcus Lewis forced Miller to give the ball up beyond the three-point line with only four seconds on the clock.

Senior Chaed Wellian’s contested three-point shot from the top of the key was long and Glenn Cosey came down with the rebound and was fouled with 1.5 seconds left.

Cosey calmly hit one free throw to seal the win.

EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said games like the last two against Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State are the type of games the Colonels will find themselves in next week in the OVC Tournament.

“This time of year, every game is going to be a grind-it-out game... every team is competing in a very hungry fashion. As we go to Nashville next week, there are going to be no 20-point wins, that’s not going to happen,” Neubauer said.

“I’m proud of our team. That’s two games in a row, here at home, that we’ve been down in the second half and our guys found a way to win. That’s what this time of year is all about.”

Fittingly, on Senior Night, it was three seniors who led the way for the Colonels. Tarius Johnson and Glenn Cosey finished with 14 points each. Cosey’s 11th point in the second half was the 1,000th of his two-year EKU career. Orlando Williams was also in double figures with 11 points.

Both team’s defenses were strong in the first half which resulted in a low-scoring affair. After building an early 15-4 lead, EKU went into the locker room at the half on top 31-26.

TSU battled back to get within two points on four occasions in the second half, but the Colonels answered each time to push the lead back out to six or seven.

But as they have done in their three previous games — a two-point loss at Belmont, and wins over SIUE and Morehead — the Tigers chipped away at the lead and eventually took a 51-50 lead with 7:29 remaining.

The lead changed hands three more times and was tied once at 56-56 before the Colonels went on an 11-1 spurt in just a minute to grab a 67-57 lead with 3:22 remaining.

Johnson (three points) and Cosey (eight points) combined for all the scoring during the run.

But the Tigers refused to fold, steadily chipping away at the lead, getting to within three, 69-66 on a Miller three pointer and a free throw with 1:06 remaining, before the Colonels’ defense shut them down the rest of the way.

The win solidified the Colonels’ as the No. 3 seed and gives them a first-round bye in the OVC Tournament.

Neubauer said he feels good about the way the Colonels have played in the last four games heading into tournament play on Thursday.

“You want to be playing good at the end of the year... It’s a great thing if you can win four in a row if you can learn from those experiences and grow from those experiences,” Neubauer said. “I am absolutely certain that these end of the game situations, the toughness that is required down the stretch to win a game... if you can learn while winning, it’s a powerful thing. So I am pleased that we have been able to finish out the right way.”

Five other Colonels scored in the game.

Eric Stutz finished with nine points, Corey Walden had seven points and 10 rebounds. He also played tough defense on Miller for large portions of the game.

Timmy Knipp came off the bench to hit two three pointers for six points. Marcus Lewis also had six points, including a coast-to-coast slam dunk. He also had a huge block with 1:14 remaining and the Colonels clinging to a three-point lead. Isaac McGlone finished with three points.

The Colonels take the court in the quarterfinals of the OVC Tournament in Nashville at 9 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s contest between Southeast Missouri and Eastern Illinois.