By TYLER PHILLIPS
Eastern lost another OVC game to a team it shouldn’t have lost to.
Tennessee Tech forced Eastern into a season-high 17 turnovers to beat the Colonels. The loss is Eastern’s fifth in conference play, which doesn’t reflect the predictions about the team from before the season.
The Colonel’s two leading scorers, senior Glenn Cosey and junior Corey Walden, both didn’t shoot well. The two starting guards combined for 8 of 23 from the field. Cosey had just three free throws and no field goals up until late in the second half. He then broke that and hit three 3-point shots in consecutive possessions to get eastern back into the game.
The late-game comeback was too late. The Colonels defense allowed Tennessee Tech to shoot over 50 percent, which is a key determinant to when the Colonels lose. In all but two of their losses this season, Eastern has allowed its opponent to shoot over 50 percent. The last time an opponent didn’t shoot over 50 percent and still beat the Colonels was Dec. 5 when Eastern lost at VCU.
The Golden Eagles had more points off turnovers than Eastern, outscoring the Colonels 24-17. Eastern leads the entire country in turnover margin at +7, but throughout the game, Tennessee Tech came up with timely stops and turnovers. Eastern is fourth in the country in steals, but the seven the Colonels had didn’t create enough points to make up the rebounding deficit.
A basket by senior Marcus Lewis five minutes into the second half cut the Tennessee Tech lead to two, but Eastern never got closer than that.
With the loss, Eastern will hope to hold on to the No. 4 seed for the OVC tournament. Eastern got some help from Murray State with their win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville last Thursday, which broke a tie with SIUE for fourth place.
Jacksonville State 65
Senior Tarius Johnson had a career-high in points with 19 to help Eastern end a rough week.
As a team, Eastern shot 64 percent. The Colonels made 31 of 48 shots to beat Jacksonville State on the road, 86-65. Cosey got back on track quickly against the Gamecocks, scoring the first points for the Colonels (18-9, 8-5 OVC) with a 3-pointer a minute and a half into the game.
The Colonels were down 21-5 in the first eight minutes of the game against Tennessee Tech. Eastern didn’t allow that to happen against the Gamecocks (10-18, 4-9 OVC). After Cosey’s early three, Eastern never trailed. The biggest lead of the game came with four minutes to go, when senior Jeff Johnson scored to make it 29.
The rest of the team followed suit. Eastern hit 11 of its 21 attempted 3-pointers.
The loss ends a week on a positive note for Eastern after dropping its last two games.
Eastern has one game at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Austin Peay, before playing Tennessee Tech at home on the Feb. 29. Austin Peay is 11-15 overall and 5-7 in OVC play.