By TYLER PHILLIPS
The Colonels sent shock through the Scottrade Center, but it didn’t last long enough to pull off a major upset.
Eastern went toe-to-toe with the No. 2 seed Kansas University Jayhawks in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but ended up falling 80-69. Eastern led most of the first half and had the lead 56-53 with a little over nine minutes to go. The Jayhawk frontcourt took over though, and sealed the game. Kansas outrebounded Eastern 43-19.
Head coach Jeff Neubauer said that the Colonels had to steal the ball from Kansas before they had the chance to rebound it.
“In the first half we did that really well,” Neubauer said. “We had eight steals in the first half and that’s what allowed us to get out of transition, what allowed us to limit their rebounding.”
Eastern came out hot, with senior Glenn Cosey hitting three 3-point shots to put the Colonels ahead by as much as seven in the first five minutes.
“Glenn Cosey did a great job getting us started in this game,” Neubauer said. “That’s what we needed. We needed a start like he gave us.”
After his 11-point kick start, Cosey failed to make any noise. The combination of Kansas’ length on defense and its ability to block shots in the lane kept Cosey at bay.
“We actually did a decent job on Cosey,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “I don’t know if he made a basket from the 15-minute mark of the first half to about the three-minute mark of the second half. The problem was the first four minutes he just got anything he wanted.”
Self said Eastern’s 1-3-1 zone gave Kansas’ guards problems, but was only used sparingly. Neubauer said his assistant coaches told him to go to it more in the first half, but he didn’t.
“We should have played more of it because it did give us a chance to deflect,” Neubauer said. “It’s amazing we didn’t get any steals out of it in the second half, but it did do what it was supposed to do.”
Kansas did not make a 3-point shot during the game, but scored 54 points in the paint. Kansas sophomore forward Jamari Traylor had 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Cosey led the Colonels with 17 points and senior guard Tarius Johnson added 15. Junior guard Corey Walden picked up three fouls in the first half and fouled out in the second. He finished with just four points and two rebounds.
“If one or two things go differently, he’s not in that sort of foul trouble,” Neubauer said. “But obviously he did not play enough minutes for us tonight for us to win.”
This loss ends the most successful two-year stretch in Eastern basketball history. The Colonels won a school record 25 games last season and an OVC Championship and NCAA tournament berth this season.
“I want to be remembered as a champion, because that’s what I am,” Cosey said. “It has been a fun two years here, setting records, winning a lot of games. I was hoping tonight we would get to 50 wins, but overall I think it has been a great two years here.”
Johnson and Cosey both transferred to Eastern in 2012. Johnson has started every game since his arrival.
“I would hope we would be remembered as a group with resilience and fight,” Johnson said. “We stuck together all through the tough losses we had. And like Glenn said, we won quite a bit the two years we have been here.”
The Colonels finished 24-10, with 49 wins over the last two seasons.