By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels used a late 23-7 run to pull away for a 74-67 win over Tennessee Tech Thursday in McBrayer Arena.
The win assured EKU a first-round bye in next week’s Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Nashville.
The Colonels trailed 55-49 with 7:55 remaining when they turned up the defensive pressure and cranked up the offensive intensity that resulted in the big run.
Eric Stutz and Tarius Johnson combined for 10-straight EKU points to give the Colonels a 60-57 lead with 4:21 remaining.
Glenn Cosey sandwiched an old fashioned three-point play and a long three-pointer around two baskets by Tech to put the Colonels up 66-61 with 2:38 remaining.
After a free throw by Tech’s Dwan Caldwell, EKU got a free throw by Corey Walden, a basket by Cosey and a layup and free throw from Tarius Johnson to stretch the lead out to 72-62 with just less than a minute to go.
The defense held the Golden Eagles in check the rest of the way to secure the victory.
EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said he was pleased with the toughness his team showed in an “OVC Tournament” type atmosphere, especially late in the game.
“The level of competitiveness this time of year is at its highest and I’m very pleased with the way our team finished this game,” Neubauer said. “In the second half our team showed toughness and resiliency. There were grown men out there rebounding for us, in the last five minutes especially.”
The game was tight throughout. There were nine ties and 15 lead changes in the game and the largest lead either team had in the first half was four points as both struggled to score against the tough man-to-man defenses.
Cosey got the Colonels to within two points, 30-28 at the half with two free throws inside the final minute.
TTU went on a 10-2 run to open the second half but the Colonels clawed back and took a 43-42 lead on a basket by Cosey that ended a 7-0 EKU run.
The Golden Eagles eventually pulled out to the 55-49 lead before EKU cranked up its comeback.
Neubauer praised the Colonels’ defense, which has been stellar in the current three-game winning streak, but said it was the aggressiveness on offense that was the difference in the game.
“Our defense certainly held up tonight. The last three games we’ve defended very well and it’s been all man-to-man. We didn’t play a possession of zone tonight,” Neubauer said. “The difference was that we did drive the ball very effectively in the second half. Tarius Johnson had some really strong drives and Glenn found some random shots and put them in against a team that has been one of the league’s best man-to-man teams over the last seven games.
Tarius Johnson and Cosey led the way with 20 points each, while Walden had 14 points and Stutz finished with 12 points.
Orlando William’s had six points and Marcus Lewis added two points.
The Colonels host Tennessee State on Senior Night Saturday at 7:30 p.m.