The Colonels (1-1) missed six free throws in the second half of a rivalry showdown with Western Kentucky (1-0) on Thursday at McBrayer.
And they were costly.
“That really, really hurt us,” EKU coach AW Hamilton said of the free throws in a postgame radio interview
The Hilltoppers rallied from an nine-point deficit to pick up a 66-60 win over Eastern Kentucky University. WKU scored 30 of the final 45 points of the game.
The Hilltoppers hit 10-of-17 three-pointers as they claimed a fourth-straight win over the Colonels. WKU has won 17 of the past 18 showdowns with their in-state rivals.
EKU shot just 33.9 percent from the field in front of a crowd of 6,303. The Colonels were also only 8-of-17 from the free throw line.
EKU, though, did out-rebound the bigger Hilltopppers, 44-36.
“I’m proud of our effort,” Hamilton said. “I love how hard we played. We competed like crazy. We rebounded the heck out of the basketball.”
EKU erased an early 8-3 deficit with a 6-0 run thanks to Michael Moreno and Tayshaun Comer’s three-point jumpers. EKU pulled in front 26-18 before the Hilltoppers made a push of their own, closing the gap to 26-23.
The EKU lead stretched to nine as the Colonels went on a 9-3 run late in the first half to make it 35-26 with 1:04 to play before halftime. After a quick four-point burst by WKU in the final 40 seconds, EKU led 35-30 at the intermission.
Moreno led all scorers in the first half with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from deep range
WKU (1-0) opened the second half by closing the gap to 35-34 before a Cooper Robb triple and layup, and a Devontae Blanton mid-range jumper extended EKU’s lead to 42-34.
The visitors responded again, scoring nine of the next 13 points to pull within one at the under-12 media timeout.
Western took its first lead of the second half at 51-49 with 10:08 left in regulation. Comer put EKU back on top with a three as the lead switched hands four times over a three-minute span. However, WKU clamped down and grabbed a 59-55 lead with 6:20 to play and would not allow the Colonels to pull closer than three for the rest of the game.
Robb led the Colonels in scoring with 11 points, while Devontae Blanton, Moreno, Comer, and DaShawn Jackson all scored 10 points. Blanton handed out four assists. Izaiah Cozart led all rebounders with 12 on the game.
EKU will look to bounce back with a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio for a date against the Bearcats in Fifth Third Arena at Noon on Sunday.