The Colonels led only once - for just five seconds - in Friday's season opener against Rice in Houston.
That was just enough time.
EKU trailed by as much as 13 points in the second half, but rallied for a 73-72 win over the Owls. Freshman Dedric Boyd hit three free throws after being fouled shooting a three-pointer and then the Colonels were able to come up with a defensive stop on the final play of the game.
Boyd had 20 points and six rebounds, while junior center Nick Mayo had a team-best 25 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
"I've got to give my guys credit," EKU coach Dan McHale said. "We just kept chipping away, chipping away. We didn't play well at all. We found a way to gut it out. It was a great team win. A great confidence booster."
The game was not only the season opener for both teams, but was also part of the MGM Grand Main Event. The Colonels continue play in the event on Monday with a game against Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.
Later this month, EKU will play a pair of games in Las Vegas - Nov. 20 vs. Prairie View A&M and Nov. 22 vs. Eastern Washington or Georgia State.
The Colonels have won six-straight season openers.
Playing in his first collegiate game, Boyd came up big late. The Brownville, Tenn., native got a Rice defender into the air and drew a foul, then calmly stepped to the free throw line and sank all three attempts.
"What can you say about Dedric Boyd? He just has ice water in his veins," McHale said.
Boyd started and played 33 minutes. He was 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-8 from three-point range. Mayo was 8-of-15 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free throw line.
The Colonels shot just 38 percent - including a 1-of-8 performance from point guard Asante Gist - and were only 6-of-27 from three-point range. It was only the third time in the past three years the Colonels have won while shooting below 40 percent from the floor.
DeAndre Dishman was the only EKU player in double figures in scoring - 11 points, seven rebounds.
The Colonels limited Rice to only 36 percent shooting (8-of-28 from three-point range).
EKU trailed 36-31 at halftime and the Owls extended that lead to 61-48 early in the second half.
The Colonels responded with a 17-5 run, which was ignited by a Mayo dunk with 7:56 left and ended when Mayo converted a layup to make it 66-65 with 3:07 remaining.
The game marked the first-ever meeting between EKU and Rice.
The Colonels have only faced Ole Miss one other time - 62 years ago (Dec. 17, 1955 - 95-92 loss). EKU is 1-39 all-time against Southeastern Conference schools, with the only win coming on Dec. 18, 1955 vs. Auburn.
The Rebels opened the season on Friday with a 94-76 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Junior Terence Davis, who posted 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.