EKU coach A.W. Hamilton offered up an honest assessment of his team's win over Eastern Illinois (3-5, 0-1 OVC) on Wednesday night at McBrayer Arena.
"It wasn't pretty, but we will take it," Hamilton said.
It was, after all, still a win — and a win against an Ohio Valley Conference opponent.
"All these games mean something," EKU junior center Tre King said. "All these games are going to be a battle. You just have to play hard for 40 minutes with energy and effort."
King led the way as the Colonels (8-2) moved to 2-1 in the OVC with a gritty 69-61 win. The junior had 22 points and 12 rebounds and was the only EKU player to reach double figures in scoring.
The Colonels had 18 turnovers, didn't hit a three-pointer in the second half, missed 11 free throws and got out-rebounded by the Panthers, 49-37.
"Eastern Illinois is a tough, physical team," Hamilton said. "They are strong. They came in here and really challenged us."
The Colonels answered the challenge.
It wasn't easy, though.
The Colonels hadn't played a game in eight days.
EIU had a five-point lead in the first half, before the Colonels rallied to take a 43-36 advantage into the break.
"Our last three games with them have been absolute wars," Hamilton said of EIU. "They had a great gameplan. They slowed us down early and we couldn't get our press going."
That changed in the second half.
The Panthers gave the ball away on five of their first eight possessions after committing just nine turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
"Once we got settled down and got composed, everything started coming together," King said.
Still, the Colonels couldn't shake the Panthers.
EKU never surrendered the lead, but EIU had several opportunities to take the lead.
"We answered the bell," Hamilton said.
The Colonels limited EIU to 28 percent shooting in the second half (3-of-15 from three-point range). The Panthers had 24 turnovers, which led to 23 points.
Cooper Robb, Curt Lewis and Wendell Green, Jr., each had nine points for EKU. Russhard Cruickshank had eight points — all in the first half.
Devontae Blanton added seen points.
"This took everyone," Hamilton said. "That's how we play here."
King battled foul trouble in the first half, but still had eight points at the break. The Lexington native was 9-of-17 from the field and had eight defensive rebounds.
He sealed the win in the closing minutes with a tip-in, two free throws and a block.
"Tre King is the most improved player on our team because of the work he put in during the summer and in the preseason," Hamilton said. "I'm proud of that kid. As the season goes on, you can really see his growth and development."
The Colonels shot 44 percent from the field for the game, hitting 5-of-14 three-pointers (0-of-6 in second half). EKU was also 12-of-23 from the free throw line.
The Colonels are set to return to action Saturday at Austin Peay.