The lead up to this week’s OVC Tournament has seen a lot of buzz around the Redhawks, winners of four straight heading into the tournament.
The buzz around the Colonels, with their own four-game win streak? Almost non-existent.
Last night, people took notice. Eastern Kentucky led from start to finish in a convincing 84-76 victory over Southeast Missouri. The Colonels jumped on top early and never looked back, scoring the first eight points and twice building a lead as large as 20 points in the first half. Senior Orlando Williams came off the bench to post 14 points at halftime, thanks to going 4-for-4 from three-point range. As a team, Eastern Kentucky made 8-of-14 (57.1 percent) of its three-point shots in the opening 20 minutes.
EKU head coach Jeff Neubauer wasn’t focused on his team’s offensive prowess, rather holding the Redhawks to 25 first half points.
“There were two aspects that really made a difference, Neubauer said. “We held them to 25 points because we did not give up any transition points in the first half. SEMO loves to run, that’s how they score. It’s why they’re averaging so many points. But Corey (Walden) did a good job on (Lucas) Nutt in the first half just stopping the break. Our other guys did a very great job of getting back. And then we finished possessions. That was a tremendous rebounding half for us and that’s why we held them to 25.”
The Colonels lead would grow to 22, but as we’ve seen throughout the tournament, SEMO would have second-half run left in them. A 12-1 run cut the lead to 10 with 4:07 left. They would get as close as six, but EKU hits five of six from the charity stripe down the stretch for the win.
“The one thing that really affected us late in the second half, they were trapping in the half court – something that shouldn’t bother us a little bit, Neubauer said. “We’ve got great passers and great shooters, guys who understand how to play basketball. We have a system that’s spread out. And for some reason we did turn it over there down the stretch. That was a little disconcerning.”
“They put together a good game,” Southeast Missouri head coach Dickey Nutt said of the Colonels. “you just can’t spot a team like we did them early. I think their pressure bothered us and it really set the tone – and then we had to play catch-up the entire night.”
EKU moves on to take on the second-seeded Racers, who led wire-to-wire in Richmond in their only meeting this season.
“We definitely remember losing to them,” junior Corey Walden said. “I wouldn’t necessarily call it a revenge game. We just want to get back at it. We want to win. We just want to win the game.”