Junior Glenn Cosey had 21 points to lead four players in double figures as the Colonels pulled away in the second half for 85-71 win over Kennesaw State University Friday in the Comfort Suites Invitational at McBrayer Arena.
With the win, the Colonels move to 2-0 on the season, while the Owls drop to 1-2.
The Colonels were out-rebounded by nine in the first half and gave up several easy transition baskets which helped the Owls stay close. But the Colonels came back in the second half and out rebounded the Owls 14-10 and their pressure defense forced turnovers which allowed their transition game to get back on track.
“I was really pleased with our defensive effort in the second half. In the first half we gave up 15 transition points which is more transition points than we want to give up in three games combined,” EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said. “The second half we rebounded much better and now our defense is creating turnovers and steals that are leading to transition points and that is what we want. That is our formula.”
The Colonels led by three at the half, 36-33. After Kennesaw State opened the second half with a free throw to cut the Colonel lead to two, baskets by Deverin Muff, Tarius Johnson and Cosey pushed the lead out to eight. The two teams traded baskets for the next nine minutes before the Colonels slowly began to pull away.
After a Yonel Brown three pulled the Owls to within nine with just less than six minutes to go, the Colonels went on a 10-2 run, capped off by an Eric Stutz dunk over Myles Hamilton. The ensuing free throw gave the Colonels a 79-62 lead with 3:21 left and the Owls could get no closer than 14 the rest of the way.
Stutz, who was the recipient of several of the Colonel’s 19 assists, some from fellow big man Jeff Johnson, said having additional size inside this year was a big help.
“I was in there by myself a lot last year. But this year having another big guy in there can take the burden off rebounding so I'm not battling everybody,” Stutz said. “They got me the ball when I was rolling down the lane so I didn’t have to do too much but put it in. It’s nice to have another big man in there who can see over the defense and knows where you are going and can get it to you.”
After sitting out last year, forward Deverin Muff has been a force on the inside. Muff scored six points and had three rebounds in the Colonels’ season-opening win over Cincinnati Christian. On Friday he finished with 10 points, most over Kennesaw State senior Aaron Anderson, which Neubauer said was no small feat.
“Deverin Muff was going against a very good, experienced post defender in Anderson. He’s a senior, very strong, an outstanding rebounder and Deverin scored against him, so that is great for us to see,” Neubauer said. “Deverin has developed in his two-plus years into a very good post scorer. He is very long, so his hook is able to get over people and he is able to get away form the defense and shoot over post defenders.”
The first half was a game of spurts as the two teams traded leads for most of the half.
After trailing 4-0 early, the Owls regrouped and built a 14-11 lead eight minutes into the game. A 10-3 run by the Colonels put them back on top 21-17 before the Owls went on an 11-3 run of their own to take a 28-24 lead. A Jeff Johnson three on the next trip down the floor gave the Colonels a lead (29-28) that they would not relinquish.
EKU placed nine players in the scoring column and several bench players had to play significant minutes due to early foul trouble. But Neubauer said the team’s depth is one of its strengths this year and Friday was an example.
“We had a lot of guys that were able to play important minutes and that allowed us to keep the defensive pressure up for 40 minutes,” Neubauer said. “Marcus Lewis, Corey Walden, Timmy Knipp all came in and gave us big minutes. Tarius (Johnson) had to play a lot of minutes as did Corey Walden and they all came through with big efforts.”
Stutz and Walden finished the night with 12 points each, while Muff added 10, Jeff Johnson nine and Marcus Lewis eight. Tarius Johnson added four, as did senior Mike DiNunno, who also dished out seven assists.
The Colonels are back in action today at 6 p.m. against Towson.
Lady Colonels look to go 3-0
The Lady Colonels take on the University of North Carolina Asheville at 2 p.m. today in McBrayer Arena.
Coach Chrissy Robert’s squad is looking to go 3-0 on the season after wins over Miami (Ohio) and Kent State.