A second-half surge led the Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team to a 79-68 win over the University of Tennessee Chattanooga on Tuesday night at McBrayer Arena.
EKU trailed the Mocs at halftime, 38-33 but head coach A.W. Hamilton’s halftime speech seemed to wake up the Colonels offensive attack in the second half.
“I thought the second half we came out and played great,” Hamilton said. “You could see that our conditioning paid off and we just had a little more in the tank.”
The Colonels came out of the locker room at halftime and quickly jumped out to a 15-0 run. The Mocs went 0-9 shooting to start the second half and the Colonels held UTC to only 27 percent shooting in the half after they shot 38.7 percent in the first half.
“15-0 run to start the second half, it was a good [halftime] speech,” Hamilton said.
Redshirt junior forward Darius Hicks has not played in a game in two years after transferring from NC State when Hamilton accepted the EKU coaching position and sitting out a year due to an ACL injury.
Hicks’ finished with a double-double in his first game as a Colonel. He finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
“He’s tough to guard, he has a quick first step and he’s powerful and athletic,” Hamilton said about Hicks.
“It just felt great being out there playing basketball,” Hicks said.
Sophomore guard Houston King led the Colonels in scoring with 19 points. He also finished with three rebounds and two assists.
“Houston really stepped up and played well,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton wants his team to clean up the turnovers before they face UK on Friday. EKU turned the ball over 24 times and allowed 20 points off of those turnovers.
Overall, EKU shot 51.9 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three point range and 76 percent from the free throw line.
The Colonels held UTC to only 32.4 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. Hamilton was pleased that his guys could shut down the UTC players on offense.
“We found the shooters and made them take tough shots,” Hamilton said.
EKU will travel to the University of Kentucky on Friday night to face the No. 2 nationally ranked Wildcats.
Hamilton and his players are ready for the challenge.
“We’re going to go in there and compete like crazy and see what happens,” Hamilton said.
“It’s a huge one,” sophomore guard Jomaru Brown said about the UK game. “We’re just ready to get back into the lab with the team and get focused.”
“We’re going to go out there and do what we do,” King said. “I feel like if we go out there and play hard then we can get anybody. It’s a good challenge early in the season.”
EKU and UK are set to tip off at Rupp Arena at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Follow @SportsEP on Twitter for more updates and stories on the men's basketball season.