By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels (22-6, 11-3 OVC) saved their best for last, completely dismantling Austin Peay 91-53 (7-21, 3-11 OVC} Wednesday in the final home game of the season.
The win tied a program record for most wins in a season (22) and tied the school record for most wins at home in a season with 15. The 15-1 home record is the second best home court winning percentage (.938) in McBrayer Arena history.
EKU jumped out to a 14-4 lead then used a 22-3 run in which they hit six three pointers to take a 24-point lead, 39-15, with 5:42 left in the half.
Leading 47-28 at the half, the Colonels outscored the Govs 21-5 to open the half and blow the game open. The Colonels lead grew to as much as 41 points late in the contest.
EKU coach Jeff Neubauer, who called his team’s defensive effort the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s Jacksonville State game the worst of the season, said Wednesday’s defense was the best of the year.
“I love the way our guys came out with a defensive mentality. It did help that we were shooting the ball very well in the first half as well,” Neubauer said. “However, our guys stayed with the defensive mentality and this is what you have to do to win games here in late February and March. You’ve got to hold people to 53 points. Can we do it every night? I don’t know. But this was a good start.”
Glenn Cosey lead 10 Colonels who scored with 17 points. Corey Walden finished with 15 points and Tarius Johnson had 12 points.
The Colonels defense was locked in from the first possession, stifling the Governors offense and the EKU shooters were red hot as six different players combined to hit nine three-pointers in the first half.
The defense begins with point guard Mike DiNunno and the senior had his best effort of the season in what could be his last home game as a Colonel, harassing the APSU’s guards all night and running the offense to perfection.
DiNunno finished with seven points, a team-high seven rebounds, nine assists and six steals.
“Mike DiNunno probably played his best defensive game of the year and it has nothing to do with the six steals and seven rebounds. Just as far as him playing the ball and putting pressure on the ball to where they couldn’t make passes He was outstanding,” Neubauer said. “And it continued in the second half. We came out of a timeout and we were up 25 points and he was still guarding really well. Just an outstanding effort by Mike.”
DiNunno said he had some games like Wednesday’s last year and its this type of game that he enjoys much more than ones in which he scores a lot of points.
“I just try to control the tempo of the game for these guys and try not to get in the way,” DiNunno said. “I feel way more a part of a win like this versus scoring a lot of points. I feel like I made it easier for my teammates on the wing defensively. I feel like I got these guys easy open shots in the open court. I’m just trying to help these guys out.”
The Governors shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the first half, but the Colonels’ defense limited them to only 22.2 percent in the second half and 36.7 percent for the game.
The Colonels were hot the entire game, shooting 57.1 percent from the floor and 56.3 percent from behind the three-point line in the first half. They shot 60 percent from the floor in the second half and finished shooting 58.6 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from behind the arc.
The Colonels forced Austin Peay into 21 turnovers while committing only 10 themselves and outscored APSU 37-10 off turnovers.
Marcus Lewis finished with nine points for the Colonels, while Timmy Knipp added eight points, two rebounds, two blocks and two steals, Eric Stutz, and Jeff Johnson had seven points each, Jaylen Babb-Harrison had six and Ryan Parsons had three points.
Neubauer said he was pleased with Knipp’s play against Austin Peay and in recent weeks.
“Timmy played really well and it wasn’t just the offense. Defensively he may have had his best game as well. He had an assignment of fronting the post. He didn’t let the ball in the post, he had deflections, he had steals, he was active as a rebounder,” Neubauer said. “It’s great when he shoots it too. That really adds a lot to our team. I was really pleased with Timmy’s effort tonight.”
The loss eliminated the Governors from the OVC Tournament.
The Colonels are back in action on Saturday when they take on Valparaiso in the ESPN Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters at 1:05 p.m. on ESPNU.