By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels couldn't overcome a cold shooting second half and fell to Murray State 81-73 Friday in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament.
OVC Co-Player of the Year Isaiah Canaan's three-point play began an 16-2 Racers’ run that gave them a 64-53 lead and broke open a tight game mid-way through the second half.
The Colonels mounted a rally with six minutes to go, going on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to five at 68-63 on a rebound and putback by Eric Stutz.
Two free throws by Glen Cosey cut the lead to four, but the Colonels could get no closer as the Racers hit their free throws down the stretch.
One series in the final five minutes summed up the Colonels’ second half.
EKU misfired on four shots on one possession with a chance to cut the lead under five points and Murray rebounded the ball and hit a three at the other end to stretch the lead back out.
"I'm really proud of the way we competed tonight. This certainly is not what we anticipated or expected coming into tonight," EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said. "Our team really competed this year, at home and on the road and felt like this was going to have a different outcome."
For the second-straight game, Eric Stutz led the colonels with 18 points. Mike DiNunno finished with 15, Corey Walden and Glen Cosey had 13 each, while Tarius Johnson had eight, Marcus Lewis and Orlando Williams had three each.
Neubauer credited improved defensive play by the Racers from the regular-season meeting for part of the Colonels’ offensive struggles, especially the play of Ed Daniel.
"Murray absolutely played our ball screens much more physically in this game," Neubauer. "Their defense tonight was very good. Ed Daniel was much more aggressive on the ball screens this time and that was the key, making our guards give it up."
Neubauer said that the team was disappointed in the loss, but he felt like it has put itself in a position for a postseason game, possibly an invitation to the NIT.
"We are certainly in the conversation. Do we end up getting a bid in the end? I don't know. But we are in the conversation, which if you had told me at the beginning of the season we would be ... It would be something we would be proud of," Neubauer said. "We have competed all season, our RPI is 66, so we are in the conversation."