Although the Colonels had few answers for the conference’s leading scorer, a 64-percent field-goal shooting gave the Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team an 85-74 win Saturday in Martin, Tenn.

The Colonels got significant contributions off the bench from Willie Cruz — four rebounds, three assists — Robin Mestdagh, Mike Lewis and Dayvon Ellis — three points apiece — and Josh Daniel, who added nine points.

“The key to tonight’s game was our bench,” EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said. “Robin Mestdagh played well in both halves. Willie Cruz played the best game of his career. Just our bench in general changed the game and allowed everyone to be fresh. We shot the ball well but our bench’s contributions made the difference in the game.”

The Colonels (6-2, 1-1 OVC) scored 11 of the first 14 off threes from Josh Jones, Josh Taylor and Papa Oppong and never looked back. Martin never held a lead once in the game.

Oppong, once again, led the Colonels in scoring with 18 points, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. EKU rolled to a 45-33 advantage at halftime off 69.6 percent from the floor, including 75 percent (9-of-12) from three-point range.

“Josh Taylor and Papa got us off to a great start. Josh Jones helped as well. It was a balanced effort,” Neubauer said. “We did shoot the ball very well. We’ve had other great shooting nights as well but our shooting from three was very special. I’m very proud of the team effort we had.”

Martin got as close as one — 22-21, midway through the first half, but a three by Taylor and another three by Lewis stifled the Skyhawks challenge.

EKU only trailed by less than 10 points once in the second half. EKU capitalized on Martin’s turnovers — forcing 10 of 18 and scoring 27 points. The Colonels, once again, had a less-than-stellar assist-turnover ratio (19-to-21) and were outrebounded, 30-25.

Most of that was because of Benzor Simmons, who scored 29 points, had 11 rebounds, including seven offensive, and had four steals.

“We didn’t have many answers for him,” Neubauer said. “We played quite a bit of zone tonight but he still drove the ball and was relentless on the offensive glass. He’s a special player.”

Taylor scored 16 points off 3-of-5 three-point shooting, Jones added 13 and Spencer Perrin scored 11 and added a team-high six rebounds. Justin Stommes also scored eight points, was 4-of-4 from the free-throw line and had a team-high of five assists.

“Justin did a very good job of being an unselfish teammate,” Neubauer said. “They were defending him in a manner that opened up his teammates. He did a lot of the right things as far as sharing the ball. The other people were able to get open and shoot it again.”

EKU will return home Wednesday for their last home game of 2009 against Ohio Valley. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at McBrayer Arena.

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