By Tony Snead
Fresh off a blowout win against Mid-Continent, the Colonels (14-12 6-6 OVC) geared up for an OVC game against rival Morehead State (13-13 6-6 OVC). Last month, the Colonels and the Eagles fought hard in a back and forth game that saw Morehead come out on top 57-54. A slow start in the first half would be the downfall of the Colonels as they lost to Morehead, 58-45 last Saturday at home.
The crowd was amped as the game started, including the student section. The first points came on a Mike DiNunno three pointer, three minutes into the game. After trading buckets, Eastern saw its last lead in the game slip away when Morehead’s guard Angelo Warner knocked down an 18- foot jumper with 10:47 left in the first half. The first half featured great defense by both teams.
“This may have been the best defensive first half we’ve played this season,” Coach Jeff Neubauer said.
The Colonels held Morehead to 31 percent shooting from the field. However, the Eagles held Eastern to 17 percent from the floor and 13 percent (2-15) three point shooting. The defense employed by Morehead gave the Colonels fits.
“We had a good high post game the first game,” Neubauer said. “But this game they did a great job of taking that away from us.”
As the second half got underway, the Eagles went on an 8-0 run to push their lead to 27-12. After a 5-0 run by the Colonels to cut the Eagles’ lead to just ten, Morehead’s three point shooting took off.
Morehead’s guard Marsell Holden knocked down three threes in a minute and a half including one that drew a foul pushing their lead to 37-19 with 13:19 left in the game. After a monster slam by Morehead’s big man, Will Bailey, a timeout was taken to try to kill the Eagles’ momentum. Play was slowed way down by Morehead’s offensive tempo.
“They slowed play down a lot,” said Coach Neubauer. “They have the slowest tempo of any team in the league.”
The Eagles went on a 6-0 run near the end of the game to put it out of reach for the Colonels. A last second layup by the Colonels’ Jeff Johnson cut the Eagles’ lead to 13. As the buzzer sounded, both teams looked as if they had just got out of a battle. One bright spot for the Colonels was the play of senior guard Jaron Jones. Jones, who had been held to single digit scoring the last three games, exploded for 20 points. He scored 17 of his game-high 20 in the second half.
“Coach told me to just be more aggressive,” Jones said.
He also led the team in rebounding, pulling down seven boards. For the game, the Colonels shot 30.6 percent (15-49) from the floor including 29.6 percent (8-27) from beyond the arc. This was a season-low for the team. The Eagles shot 41.3 percent (19-46) from the field including 36.8 percent (7-19) from the three. The leading scorer for Morehead was Holden with 12 and the game’s leading rebounder was Morehead’s forward Drew Kelly, who snatched down eight.
“This wasn’t the typical Morehead State, EKU game,” Morehead’s head coach Donnie Tyndall said after the game. “They typically come down to the last two minutes, they’re usually ugly and physical.”
But Neubauer had a slightly different view of the game.
“Anytime you struggle it’s tough. Morehead State deserves credit but we had a lot of good looks and just missed them,” Neubauer said.