By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels let a big lead slip away but held on at the end to down Southeast Missouri State, 84-76, Thursday and advance to the semifinals of the OVC Tournament.
EKU led by 21 points, 70-49, with 8:26 remaining but the Redhawks caught fire, going on a 12-1 run to cut it to 71-61 with four minutes left.
Free throws by Glenn Cosey and Tarius Johnson and a basket by Eric Stutz after a steal, pushed it back out to 77-62 with 2:35 left.
But SEMO suddenly caught fire from long range, hitting a trio of three-pointers to pull within six, 79-73 with 30 second remaining.
After missing three of their past six free throws, Isaac McGlone came in to nail four in a row to seal the win.
EKU coach Jeff Neubauer credited his teams ability to limit the SEMO fast break for its big first-half lead.
“We played great defensively in the first half. We didn’t allow SEMO to get out in transition and get any easy baskets. SEMO loves to run, that’s why they are averaging so many points and we didn’t allow that,” Neubauer said. “Corey (Walden) did a great job on Nutt and our other guys did a great job getting back. Then we finished possessions.”
Walden lead four Colonels in double figures with 17 points. Cosey added 15, Orlando Williams had 14, including four three-pointers, and Tarius Johnson had 12 points.
The Colonels came out of the game playing smothering defense, holding the Redhawks to only four points in the first eight minutes of the game.
A 16-2 EKU run highlighted by four three pointers, three by Williams, gave the Colonels a 20 point cushion, 28-8.
SEMO was able to close the gap to 39-25 at the half.
EKU, not known for its rebounding prowess, out-rebounded SEMO 15-13 in the first half.
That was accomplished with center Eric Stutz on the bench for most of the half with two fouls.
But senior Jeff Johnson stepped in and played perhaps his best game of the season.
“Jeff played very well. He played 19 minutes and those were very important minutes because of Eric’s foul trouble,” Neubauer said.
“That was a tremendous rebounding half for us and that is why we held them to 25 points,” Neubauer said.
The Colonels picked up on defense to begin the second half where they left off in the first, holding SEMO to four points as they built their largest lead of the game, 21 points, 51-29 with 16 minutes remaining.
SEMO cut the lead to under 15 points on four occasions, but each time EKU answered to push it back out to 20, before the Redhawks finally clawed back into it.
Marcus Lewis finished with nine points, Stutz had eight points despite only playing 17 minutes due to foul trouble, McGlone had six points and Timmy Knipp had three points.
The Colonels now have a rematch with Murray State at 10 p.m. today.
The Racers put an old-fashioned whipping on the Colonels in January in McBrayer Arena and Walden said the Colonels remember it.
“We definitely remember losing to them, but I wouldn’t call it a revenge game. We just want to get back in there and we want to win this one,” Walden said.