Samantha Williams picked up her first win as the Eastern Kentucky University women's basketball coach on Wednesday as the Colonels muscled past in-state rival Northern Kentucky University in the season opener.
EKU topped the Norse 69-62 to pick up the program's first win since December 2018.
The Colonels didn't have a win against a Division I opponent last season.
Williams said during the postgame press conference that the Colonels are ready to put the past behind them.
That journey started tonight.
"I'm excited for myself, but I'm more excited for this team... This team has worked extremely hard. It's been a tough preseason with the coaching change and growing pains, but I couldn't be more elated for them to pull out that win... We are trying to forget the past of what has happened and just move forward. They are hungry to win and I'm excited about how much better we can be this season," Williams said.
The Colonels debuted their new up-tempo style of play and used clutch shooting in the first quarter to take a 21-12 lead over the Norse.
With four minutes to go, Teri Goodlett sparked an 11-1 run with a three-pointer. Qay Stanton added a beautiful jumpshot over a defender. I'Liyah Green followed that with a three-pointer and Goodlett knocked down another shot from beyond the arc to cap the run.
The momentum shifted in the second quarter as the Colonels struggled with turnovers and fouls.
"We were not focused on our defensive stuff, we weren't boxing out like we should've been," Green said after the game.
Shay Solomon noted the team's offense started to crumble as team communication broke down.
The Norse took advantage and used a 7-0 run in the second quarter to get back in the contest and got within one, 37-36, at halftime.
"We started turning the ball over and they started to exploit some of the mismatches, to their credit," Williams said of NKU's first half comeback. "I think that was what enabled them to get back in the game and then get a slight lead in the second half."
The Norse scored the first six points of the third quarter to take their largest lead of the game, 42-37.
The Colonels buckled down and was able to get cut that lead down with some solid defense and smart shooting.
Bria Bass nailed a three-pointer to cut the Norse lead back down and Solomon made it a one point game with a jumpshot a minute later.
NKU transfer Samari Mowbray helped tie the game up 50-50 with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
The junior fouled out early in the fourth quarter, but EKU's bench came in to power the team to victory.
EKU was down two at the start of the fourth quarter, but three-pointers from De'Ayra Davis and Anysa Jordan gave EKU a four-point lead, 56-52.
Mowbray said she was proud of her team for fighting back for a victory.
"The feeling is indescribable," Mowbray said of the win. "I owe it to my team. They did it for me and for us. I have all the faith in the world in them and they got us this win… Our team shows that it's just not the starters that impact the game. (The bench) they helped tremendously in this win."
Indeed, EKU got an amazing 33 points off the bench in the victory.
The Colonel defense stepped up in the fourth quarter and was able to hold NKU scoreless for the final two minutes of the game.
After Molly Glick tied the game for the Norse with a jumper and a free throw at the 2:42 mark, EKU kept the visitors off the board the rest of the way.
The Norse missed its final five field goal attempts and turned the ball over once.
NKU missed two free throw attempts with 25.2 seconds left in the game that would have cut the deficit to two points.
Davis made two free throws at the other end to extend the lead to six, 68-62, with 23.5 seconds left.
"It was truly a team win. We had numerous contributors and I think you are going to see that this season. We are more than just a one-player team," Williams said of the Colonels deep bench.
The Colonels had 17 assists on Wednesday night.
"We've trying to emphasize being a team and emphasize team chemistry. When the chemistry is strong, they share the ball and its natural… It's a step in the right direction," Williams said.
EKU shot 45 percent from the field for the game, including hitting 11-of-25 (44 percent) from three-point range. NKU made just 32 percent of its shots.
The Colonels also blocked six shots, but lost the turnover battle 21-18.
Solomon led the Colonels with 12 points and five assists. Bass had nine points. Green contributed seven points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two assists. Jordan totaled eight points and seven rebounds.
"When the other team has to scout us, they have to be worried about multiple people. We have a 'next person up' mentality. When someone is injured or in foul trouble who is going to step up and give us that energy," Williams said.
Green said the Colonels will look to continue to prove people wrong.
"We've been putting a lot of work in. People haven't been expecting us to win, so we went out there with a chip on our shoulder and played hard. We wanted to win," Green said.
The Colonels will play their first road game of the season on Saturday at Memphis.