By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Colonels built a 20-point, second-half lead, then withstood a late run to hang on for a big 59-52 win over Morehead State (8-10, 2-2 OVC) before a packed house at McBrayer Arena Saturday.
EKU (14-3, 4-0 OVC) remains undefeated in 10 games at home this season and is 4-0 in conference play for the first time since the 1978-79 season.
The Colonels trailed all but four minutes in the first half and were down six at 20-14 with just more than five minutes in the first half.
But EKU cranked up its defensive pressure, forcing several Morehead turnovers that fueled an 18-1 run to close out the half, that gave the Colonels a 32-21 halftime lead.
The Colonels picked up where they left off to start the second half. Deverin Muff and Tarius Johnson scored the first five points of the half, jump-starting a 23-1 spurt that pushed the Colonels’ lead out to a 20-point advantage the Eagles could never overcome.
Mike DiNunno led a balanced EKU attack with 13 points. The senior also had four assists and three steals. Three other Colonels scored in double figures, with Tarius Johnson getting 11 points, a team-high seven rebounds and three assists, while Eric Stutz had 10 points and six rebounds and Orlando Williams also had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Colonel coach Jeff Neubauer said his team’s defense and rebounding were the difference in the game.
“I’m really proud of our defensive effort tonight. I believe with about five minutes and some change left Morehead only had 32 points, so that is how we won the game,” Neubauer said. “We also rebounded very well. Morehead is the best rebounding team in the conference, outrebounding their opponents by 15 rebounds a game and we only got outrebounded by one and for us we are really pleased with.”
The Colonels forced the Eagles into 22 turnovers, which they turned into to 26 points, while protecting the ball and handling the Eagles’ full-court pressure very well all night. They also were flying all over the court and seemed to get almost every loose ball.
“I’m really proud of how our guys handled the press without Glenn Cosey, who is kind of our quarterback in those situations. All of our guys who came in, Robbie Stenzel, Marcus Lewis and Corey Walden handled the pressure very well,” Neubauer said. “Orlando Williams, his box score is not perfect, but he was flying all around and laying out on the ground. Eric Stutz sprinted back on defense. So many guys just busted up plays or got loose balls. That is what we have to be all about, playing hard and it’s got to get better and better as we go into conference play.”
DiNunno said it felt good beating two big rivals in the span of a week, especially in front of the big crowd Saturday.
“The crowd was great tonight,” DiNunno said. “This means everything, especially to our alums. We’ve got a lot of people who thoroughly enjoyed that final score. So, it’s all for the fans, it’s all for the people who have played here before and it’s great to make them happy.”
Corey Walden scored eight points and pulled down five rebounds. Stutz finished with six points and six rebounds, while Lewis had four points and Muff had three points and four rebounds.
Drew Kelly led Morehead State with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Colonels hit the road for their next two conference games beginning with an 8 p.m. tipoff against Belmont Thursday in a battle of the two top teams in the OVC East.