Colonels fans were treated to a thriller on Jan. 8 as the Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) men’s basketball team defeated ASUN opponent Liberty University (LU), 62-59, at Baptist Health Arena in Richmond. Both teams battled with a total of 16 lead changes, four ties and no team ever leading by more than 11 points.

The Flames entered the game hot coming off their sixth win in a row and a 3-0 record in ASUN competition, beating all three previous opponents by an average of 27 points. The Colonels came into the game with their first ever ASUN road victory with a close win over Central Arkansas, 77-75, just three days prior. 

EKU scored first as Isaiah Cozart won the tipoff leading to a Devontae Blanton layup. Liberty responded quickly as Darius McGhee made one from beyond the arc. McGhee leads the nation in 3-pointers and only scored three points in the first half.

EKU Head Coach A.W. Hamilton spoke on shutting down McGhee’s scoring.

“I just thought defensively, start to finish, we were really good. We were able to mix up defenses, give McGhee different looks … our guys did a really good job,” said Hamilton after the win. 

The story remained the same throughout the first half as both teams traded baskets, neither finding separation. A layup by Liberty’s Blake Preston gave Liberty their largest lead of the game, 15-10, with 10:01 left in the first half. 

EKU would answer with a 10-4 run of a trio of triples from John Ukomadu, Tayshawn Comer, Blanton and a Cozart dunk to put EKU in the lead, 21-19, with 5:46 remaining before the half. 

Three more lead changes later and Copper Robb had the last say in the half, making  a pair of free throws at 1:36 to put the Colonels ahead, 30-29, heading into the locker room.

Coming out of the break, the second half was a story of runs. The Colonels struck eight unanswered points from Blanton, Micheal Moreno and Robb to go ahead, 43-35, with 15:25 remaining. The Flames answered over the next four minutes with an 11-3 run of their own, tying the game, 46-46, with 11:01 remaining.

Turner Buttry would be the one to spark the EKU offense with back-to-back 3-pointers, followed shortly by a Blanton three and a Leland Walker pull-up jumper to cap a, 11-0 run, giving EKU the largest lead of the game, 57-46, and exciting the Colonel fans in attendance. 

“I thought the roof was gonna blow off the place when he (Buttry) hit those threes … then TaeTae (Blanton) followed it up,” said Hamilton.

Liberty refused to go down quietly and battled back within three after a second-chance layup by Zach Cleveland with only eight seconds remaining. A Liberty 3-point chance to force overtime at the buzzer missed, sealing the win for the Colonels, 62-59.

Blanton led the Colonels with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Robb finished close behind with 15 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Coming into the game Liberty led the nation in 3-pointers per game (12.3) but EKU’s defense shut down Liberty beyond the arc, allowing only four 3-pointers. McGhee, two-time ASUN player of the year, averaging 22 points per game, was kept to only seven points in the game. 

“We knew who their shooters were, we knew we had to contain them,” said Robb, discussing the EKU defensive showing. “Just doing us … knowing the scout … knowing our concepts in the game and just executing them.”

The Colonels improve to 10-7 (3-1 ASUN) on the season with their win over Liberty. EKU continues their home stand as they face off against Florida Gulf Coast University on Jan. 12. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN+ and aired on WCYO 100.7 FM with live stats available at

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