By TODD PURVIS/Sports editor
For the first time in his tenure at Eastern, Coach Travis Ford can finally rest knowing he’s beaten every team in the conference, with Tuesday night’s 83-69 win over Morehead State.This feat didn’t come easy for Ford, as he was winless in his last eight games against Eagles’ coach Kyle Macy, but with a solid performance from Eastern’s backcourt, Ford wasn’t denied.
“This is the first time I’ve beaten Morehead and it’s the first time we’ve beaten Austin Peay this year, so those were the only ones left,” Ford said. “With that said that shows you what Kyle Macy has done with the Morehead program it’s a phenomenal, phenomenal job of what he’s done down there.”
Not only was this a great win for Ford and the Colonels, but the game went down in history for another reason.
Senior guard Ben Rushing tied the all-time three-point record of 190 threes at Eastern. Rushing nailed four treys in the game and finished with a season high 16 points.
“My teammates realized that I was hot, and they did a great job getting me the ball,” Rushing said. “The big guys did a great job setting screens and getting me open.”
Along with Rushing’s sharp shooting from the field, Eastern guards Matt Witt, Zach Ingles and Jason McLeish also turned in solid performances. Witt finished with 19 points and eight assists, Ingles and McLeish finished with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
“Zach and Matt got hot and J (McLeish) had an excellent game,” Rushing said.
Morehead’s record fell to 9-11 on the season and 3-6 in the conference.
Eastern boosted its overall record to 14-6 on the season and moved to 6-3 in league play.
“You can’t get caught up, and that’s one thing that I told the team, we’re not talking about championships; we’re not talking about where we’re at; we’re just focused on our next game.”
Although the Colonels trailed Morehead State for most of the first half, they managed to tie the game up for the first time since the tip with 2:17 to play in the opening stanza, when McLeish connected on two straight trifectas, tying the game at 35 all.
After a baseline jumper from Morehead’s Cory Burns, the Colonels responded with a three from Witt, giving Eastern its first lead of the game at the halftime.
“We finally clawed back and got the lead before halftime, and that gave us a lot of momentum in the second half,” Rushing said.
After both teams traded a couple of buckets in the second half, Eastern picked up a lead that it never relinquished.
A baseline jumper from Haney, followed by a three-pointer by Ingles, forced Morehead State to take a timeout as it trailed 47-41.
The Colonels pushed the lead out to 10 after a free-throw from McLeish and went on to pick up the 83-69 victory in the contest.
“This is a big win because we go on the road now for three games against very tough competition,” Ford said. “We had already let one slide at home, and you can’t do that if you’re going to compete in this conference.”
Rushing was a perfect five of five from the field; as he knocked down four threes and a pair of free-throws.
“He defies all of the odds, he really does,” Ford said. “You look at him and you think; how can he do it; how is he going to defend; how is he going to get a shot off; but he defies odds because he has one of the better understandings for the game that I’ve seen as far as figuring out how to get open and how to get a shot off, and he shoots the ball extremely quick which is good for a small guard.”
Morehead’s Chad McKnight led all scorers in the game with 21 points.
“I don’t know what you do to stop him. He’s a load down there. He understands how to score, but more importantly he understands how to get open, because we did everything possible to try to stop him.”
The Colonels return to action tonight at 8:30 p.m. on the road against Tennessee State.
“I said before it started that this conference would be won or lost in February,” Ford said. “I think it’s going to be true because there are some teams that have got a pretty decent schedule left and we’ve got a pretty even one as far as away and home.”
UT-Martin vs. Eastern
After going through a recent shooting slump, the Colonels proved that their shooting woes were behind them in Saturday’s 95-71 victory over Tennessee-Martin.
Eastern came out and shot a sizzling 50 percent (12-24) from behind the arc, hitting 10 of 17 in the first half. The Colonels built a 20-point lead by halftime off of sharp shooting from Witt, Rushing and Ingles. Witt nailed four threes in the opening half, while Rushing hit three and Ingles chipped in with two by halftime.
Eastern outscored the Skyhawks by four points in the second half, en route to a 24 point Colonel victory.
Witt finished the game as the leading scorer, as he tied his career high with 27 points and finished one assist shy of his career high, with 11.
Ingles finished with 15 points, while Rushing had 12 points for Eastern.
Murray State vs. Eastern
Although the Racers of Murray State handed the Colonels a loss earlier this season, Eastern responded by downing the Racers 73-61 last Thursday.
The Colonel offense was led by four starters, all of which finished the game in double figures. Haney, Hird, Ingles and Witt, finished with at least 10 points and Hird picked up another double-double, with 12 boards in the game.
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