By Cameron Blair
Eastern’s men’s basketball team scored a season-high 87 points and another Colonel reached a career milestone in an 87-77 victory over Tennessee Tech Saturday in Cookeville, Tenn.The Colonels have won three in a row and five out of their last six overall games.
Junior Mike Rose scored his 1,000th point when he made a layup five minutes into the second half of the game. Rose finished the game with a team-high 21 points along with seven rebounds and two steals.
Rose scored 16 of his 21 points and didn’t miss a shot in his six attempts of the first half.
Head Coach Jeff Neubauer praised Rose’s efforts on the glass, as well as his ability to score.
“Mike has been one of our most consistent scorers, but the fact that he has been rebounding more lately has helped as well,” Neubauer said. “Over the last four or five games, he’s been running in on both ends and getting loose ball rebounds.”
The Colonels led for most of the game, taking control early in the first half. A Mike Rose basket early in the first half gave Eastern a 12-10 lead and the Colonels wouldn’t lose the lead again.
Eastern ended the first half strong as well.
With the Colonels leading by eight with five seconds left in the first half, Tennessee Tech turned the ball over and Adam Leonard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Colonels into the locker room with a 43-32 lead.
The Colonels were very efficient on the offensive end in the first half.
Eastern made 17 of their 31 field-goal attempts and turned the ball over once during the opening period. The Colonels had only five turnovers for the entire game.
“If you don’t give teams like Tech transition baskets they’re used to, it forces them to score in their half court sets. Valuing the ball is going to be very important for our success down the stretch,” Neubauer said.
The Colonels built upon their 11-point halftime lead in the second half. Eastern led by as many as 18 at 72-54 midway through the second half. Tennessee Tech went on a 7-0 run toward the end of the game, but Adam Leonard responded with a 3-pointer to put the game out of reach.
Leonard followed up his career-best 24 points in the Colonels’ previous game against UT-Martin with 18 points on 6-11 shooting against Tennessee Tech.
However, it was another part of Leonard’s performance Neubauer was impressed with.
“The most impressive part of Adam’s box score is that he had seven assists and no turnovers,” Neubauer said. “He’s really been making great decisions and getting the ball to people in scoring situations.”
Eastern avenged an earlier loss at home to the Golden Eagles with the victory. The win was also the first Colonel victory at Tennessee Tech since 1998.
Unlike the previous game against the Golden Eagles, Eastern was able to gain the rebounding edge over Tennessee Tech. The Colonels edged the Golden Eagles 29-26 on the boards after being out-rebounded by 16 the first time the teams met this season.
“It was much more important for our guys to put a body on someone and block out. It really helps your rebounding number when you do a good job of physically blocking out,” Neubauer said.
Eastern’s season-high point total was the result of balanced scoring in the game. Three other Colonels scored in double figures in addition to Leonard and Rose.
Freshman guard Justin Stommes led the group with 15 points as well as six rebounds
Senior big men Darnell Dialls and Jamaal Douglas scored a combined 22 points, respectively.
“We’ve been taking care of the ball better and we’re also getting production from all five positions,” Neubauer said. “Justin Stommes and Josh Daniel are scoring from the two spot and Jamaal Douglas and Josh Taylor are a good combination at the four spot.”
Neubauer did express concern about Eastern’s performance on defense during the game. Tennessee Tech made 58.3 percent of their field goal attempts (28-48) led by senior Amadi McKenzie.
McKenzie made 12 of his 13 shots and scored 29 points.
“Our defense had a tough time guarding their inside players, especially Amadi McKenzie,” Neubauer said. “We certainly have concerns about our defense and we are working to address those.”
The Colonels will be back in action Thursday against the OVC’s hottest team, Murray State. The Racers have won nine of their last 10 games. ESPNU will broadcast the game and tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. at McBrayer Arena.