Despite controlling much of the game, poor shooting and untimely fouls down the stretch cost the Eagles a chance to pull off a major upset in front of 6,036 fans in Johnson Area. The Eagles led by as much as 11, but would fall to 9-11 on the year, and 3-4 in the OVC, after a 66-60 loss to Murray State.
Eagles control the first half, not the second: For the first 25 minutes, the Eagles played like they were the favorites. In front of over 6-thousand fans at Johnson Arena, the Eagles played with poise, intensity, and only allowed the Racers to hold just one lead: 2-0. The lead ballooned to 11 just over 9 minutes into the game, and the Eagles looked well on their way to pulling off one of the biggest regular season upsets in program history.
But before the Eagles could get into the locker room, the Racers made a run, tying the game at 28 with 2:20 to go. But then the Eagles went on an offensive explosion, scoring 9 points in the final 1:51, caped off by a shot by Drew Kelly with just 2 seconds remaining, and the Eagles had the momentum going into the half, up 6.
“It’s all my fault” -Drew Kelly, on picking up his 4th foul
But Morehead’s fortunes wouldn’t last. Kelly was perfect from the field, when forced to sit with his fourth foul with 10:43 to go. After just putting up 9 points so far in the half, the Eagles could only manage 14 more down the stretch, as Kelly would foul out with 3:03 remaining.
Foul misfortunes: There’s no doubt the game tonight was being called tight, but Morehead State never seemed to make the adjustment. In the end, the Eagles would be called for 27 personal fouls, putting the Racers at the line for 34 free throws. 3 players would foul out, the first, Kahlil Owens, with 8:15 left in the game. Kelly, and Lamont Austin, also fouled out.
“When he [Kelly] got his 4th foul, the complexion of the game got changed.” -Donnie Tyndall
The “make anyone but Canaan beat us” defense: The defensive gameplan was simple, but effective, at least early. The Eagles played their trademark 2-3 matchup zone, but with a twist of double teaming Isaiah Cannan every time he had the ball. The defensive was aggressive, and forced 10 Racers turnovers in the first 9 minutes of the game. Canaan was held to 2-5 shooting, including just 1-4 from deep, finishing the first half with just 9 points. But in the second half, it felt like the Eagles instantly came out less aggressive on offense, and as a result, Canaan got much better looks, especially in the critical moments down the stretch. It appears that the gameplan was great, but it just wasn’t executed for a full 20 minutes.