By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Lady Colonels (8-6, 2-1 OVC) downed Eastern Illinois 63-62 in a nail-biter Monday in McBrayer Arena to give Coach Chrissy Roberts her first win over the Lady Panthers.
The win also snapped a 10-game EKU losing streak to the OVC West Division leading Lady Panthers (8-7, 2-1 OVC).
Jade Barber led the Lady Colonels with a season-high 22 points. She also pulled down nine rebounds and blocked three shots. Alex Jones had her 28th career double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Brittany Coles added 10 points and five rebounds.
Raechelle Gray finished with five points and a personal-best 10 assists while committing no turnovers.
Baskets by Barber and Brittany Coles broke a 57-57 tie and gave the Lady Colonels a 61-57 lead with a minute left to play.
Eastern Illinois senior Mariah King pulled the Lady Panthers to within two points with a basket with 48 seconds remaining.
EKU then ran the shot clock down to two seconds before Marie Carpenter put up a shot and missed.
Alex Jones tipped the rebound away from an Eastern Illinois player and Jade Barber dove to the floor and fought for the ball and forced a tie up that gave the ball back to EKU on the change of possession arrow with 15.2 seconds left.
Raechelle Gray was fouled and hit two free throws to give EKU a 63-59 lead with 10.3 seconds left, but Ta’Kenya Nixon quickly drained a long three-pointer with 5.4 seconds left to cut the lead to one at 63-62.
Gray was fouled again on the throw-in, but missed the free throw.
Eastern Illinois missed a desperation heave from mid-court, but the ball ended up in the hands of King under the basket, but Barber blocked her shot as time expired to preserve the win.
The win came two days after a disappointing loss to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in a game that the Lady Colonels felt they should have won but let get away from them after committing 29 turnovers.
“After the SIUE game we wanted to come out and prove ourselves. We let that one slip away from us,” EKU coach Chrissy Roberts said. “We came out a little tight early, but through the Eastern Illinois runs we just retained our composure, we executed and made shots and got rebounds when we needed to and this team found a way to get it done.”
Things didn’t look very promising for the Lady Colonels early as the Lady Panthers raced out to a 22-10 lead mid-way through the first half.
The EKU offense struggled early, but finally got on track.
The Lady Colonels went on a 15-5 run, capped off by back-to-back three-pointers by Carpenter, to take a 28-27 lead with 2:03 left in the half, before Eastern Illinois scored the final six points of the half to take a 33-28 lead into the locker room.
“We knew we had to keep our composure there,” Gray said of the EIU run. “We saw some of their shots rattling in and we thought, “OK, right now they are hitting and we are not,’ so we had to keep our composure and we knew our shots would eventually fall.”
The second half featured scoring runs by both teams and seven lead changes.
The Lady Colonels scored the first eight points of the second half to go back in front 35-33, and were up 40-35 after a basket by Jasmine Henshaw four minutes into the half.
Eastern Illinois refused to fold and went on a 12-0 run of its own over the next three minutes to regain the lead and pull out to a 51-44 lead will just under 10 minutes to play.
From that point, Barber was almost unstoppable, scoring nine straight for the Lady Colonels, the last two giving EKU a 55-54 lead with 3:43 left.
The lead changed hands three more times before the Lady Colonels finally pulled away at the end.
The win was especially big for Lady Colonel Pilar Walker who played two years at Eastern Illinois before transferring to EKU.
Gray said Walker circled the date on her calendar a year ago.
“She has been hyped all day. She has been looking forward to this game ever since she came here,” Gray said. “We wanted to make sure we got that win for her. This was as big for her as it was for the team as a whole, so we kind of rallied around her today and this was for her.”
The Lady Colonels got strong play from several players off the bench also.
Carpenter finished with six points and four assists, while Jalisa Bryant had five points, and Walker and Henshaw chipped in two points each.
The Lady Colonels complete their three-game homestand Sat. against Morehead State. Game time is set for 4 p.m.