By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels opened the regular season last weekend by winning two-of-three games in the Kennesaw State Invitational in Kennesaw, Ga.
EKU rolled past Conference USA foe Florida International 83-61 in the opener Friday.
Four players scored in double figures, led by senior point guard Glenn Cosey’s 17-point, eight-assist, six-rebound effort. Marcus Lewis added a career-high 16 points, Orlando Williams 14 and Corey Walden 11.
The EKU defense was outstanding, forcing 14 turnovers and turning those into 25 points, while giving up two points off turnovers themselves.
Colonels coach Jeff Neubauer said he was pleased with the way his team came out of the gate.
“Our guys really played great basketball at both ends of the court against FIU. We shared the ball, shot the ball well and defensively we played stifling man-to-man. For us to pick up a win over FIU was a really good win for our program,” Neubauer said. “(On) Saturday we got our first road win of the year against Kennesaw State. To be able to beat them on their own court took a good effort from our guys.”
The Colonels followed that up with a true road win Saturday, downing host Kennesaw State, 68-60, in comeback fashion.
EKU trailed 34-32 with just less than 14 minutes remaining. But, the Colonels hit eight consecutive shots to take a 50-39 lead, then held off a Kennesaw State comeback attempt for the win.
Walden had a game-high 21 points for the Colonels, while Lewis had his second consecutive career high with 19 points and Cosey added 15.
On Sunday, the Colonels dropped their first game of the season, 75-67, to Youngstown State.
The Penguins went on an 18-1 run to erase a 20-14 Colonel advantage and take the lead. Youngstown lead by 11 mid-way through the second half, but EKU used a 9-2 run to get to within four at 53-49. The Colonels cut the lead to 64-63 with just under four minutes to go, but a couple of missed free throws and two turnovers allowed the Penguins to hold on for the win.
The Colonels did not have an answer for Youngstown’s Kendrick Perry. The Horizon League Player of the Year finished with a game-high 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Cosey and Tarius Johnson lead the way with 12 points each.
“We played a really good Youngstown State team. It was a very good basketball game, but they shot the ball very well,” Neubauer said. “Andrew Perry had 31 points and was a handful and we really had fits with him. We cut it to one and we had a few opportunities in transition but just didn’t execute very well. Youngstown deserves the win.”
With three games in the books, many teams around the country are really struggling adjusting to the new NCAA crackdown on hand checks on defense.
The Colonels thus far are not one of them, playing defense well without using their hands and committing fouls, something that Neubauer said the coaching staff has stressed throughout the preseason.
“We really worked on playing defense without our hands in the offseason. Our guys are trying to do the right things and we are still guarding aggressively, but we have to do it intelligently,” Neubauer said. “In general this weekend, our guys did a good job moving their feet. The officials even said to me during the games down there that our guys were doing a good job of showing their hands so we weren’t fouling.”
But there is still a lot of work to be done, Neubauer said, on the part of not only the players, but the coaches and officials as well as the season progresses as it becomes more consistent in college basketball.
The Colonels return home for their next four contests, beginning Wednesday with Warren Wilson College. High Point, Alabama A&M and Brescia come to McBrayer Arena before the Colonels hit the road once again Nov. 30 when they travel to Raleigh, N.C. to take on North Carolina State.