By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels are headed to the championship game of the OVC Tournament after a thrilling 86-83 win over Murray State Friday.
EKU will face Belmont at 7 p.m. today for a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Glenn Cosey hit one-of-two free throws with 18.3 seconds remaining to give the EKU an 86-83 lead.
The Colonels defense forced the Racers into a rushed three pointer with only four seconds remaining.
Murray’s Jarvis Williams came down with the rebound but his desperation three-pointer at the buzzer was partially blocked by Orlando Williams sealing the win.
“Those final eight seconds seemed like an eternity,” EKU’s Corey Walden said. “But the clock ran out and we were able to get the win.”
EKU is in the championship game for the first time since 2007 — when the Colonels defeated Austin Peay to advance to the NCAA Tournament .
“We’ve been talking to our team all season about having special efforts and I think a lot of guys gave special efforts here today,” EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said.
Unlike the first time these two teams met in Richmond in which the Colonel defense and offense was woeful in a big Murray State win, EKU came out playing well on both ends of the court.
The game was extremely tight early, with the lead changing hands four times before the Colonels methodically built a 46-37 halftime lead.
They extended the cushion to 61-49 with just over 12 minutes remaining before Murray rallied.
Both teams battled foul problems all night and EKU center Eric Stutz went to the bench with his fourth foul at the 12-minute mark.
But as they have done all tournament long, Jeff Johnson, Deverin Muff and the EKU bench played well in his absence.
The Racers chipped away at the lead and whittled it down to six, 66-60 with nine minutes left.
But the Colonels responded and got it back to nine, 72-63 two minutes later.
Murray State then outscored EKU 11-5 to pull to within 74-77 with 3:22 left and finally caught up at 79-79 two minutes later on a T.J. Sapp with only 1:31 remaining.
That’s when Corey Walden and Cosey took over.
Walden scored five straight to give EKU some breathing room, then he and Cosey hit the free throws down the stretch to hang on for the huge win.
Stutz, Marcus Lewis and Tarius Johnson fouled out of the game and four other Colonels finished the game with four fouls.
Neubauer said he had never had to deal with so many players in foul trouble in such a big game.
“We’ve never had foul trouble to this extent where we had Eric and Tarius foul out, Corey played a long, long time with four fouls. A lot of guys stepped up for us,” Neubauer said. “All the guys out there at the end played gutty and were very effective.”
Five Colonels scored in double figures in the game. Walden had a game-best 24 points, Cosey finished with 17 points, Orlando Williams had 13 points and Marcus Lewis and Stutz had 10 points each.
Tarius Johnson finished with eight points and Timmy Knipp and Jeff Johnson had two points each.
Cosey said the team came into the tournament not looking past the game it was playing and now it has one more to go.
“We just want to win. We want to take it one game at a time and play our hardest, rebound, defend and win it,” he said.
The Colonels and Belmont split two games this season, with each winning on its home floor.