The new era under head coach Samantha Williams started out victorious as the Eastern Kentucky University women’s basketball team defeated in-state rival Northern Kentucky University, 69-62 on Wednesday night at McBrayer Arena.
The Colonels came out in the first quarter with 56.3 percent shooting from the field and held NKU to 33.3 percent.
This win was a little more special for junior Samari Mowbray. She transferred from NKU and went off for seven points, three assists, one rebound and one steal.
“The feeling is indescribable,” Mowbray said. “I fouled out early in the fourth so I owe it to my team, they did it for me, for us. I have all the faith in the world in them.”
Redshirt senior Shay Solomon led the Colonels with 12 points, four rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block.
As a team, the Colonels finished with 11 steals and six blocks.
EKU has a new look this season under Williams and it is noticeable in the number of assists and speed of the game.
The Colonels’ ball movement led to 17 assists and the new up-tempo style forced NKU to turn the ball over 18 times and scoring 11 points off turnovers.
“The growth was honestly just trust and playing hard,” Solomon said. “We stayed together as a team.”
EKU finished with 24-53 shooting from the field (45.3 percent) and 11-25 from three (44 percent).
The Colonels held NKU to 32.3 percent from the field in the game and 28.6 percent from three point range.
Down the stretch, Williams told her team to take it one possession at a time and get stops.
At the end of the game, Williams said the team could barely hear her because of how loud the fans were.
“I want to stress to everyone that this is an exciting team and get out to see this team play,” Williams said.
EKU had 33 bench points compared to NKU’s six.
“It’s very important and we stress this all the time, it’s not just the starters that impact the team,” Mowbray said. “The bench has to come in and give just as much energy as the people out there at the beginning.”
There were five ties and nine lead changes but EKU was able to out score the Norse in the fourth quarter, 19-10 to pull away.
The Colonels are happy to start the season with a win and especially since they did not defeat a Division I school last season.
“We are trying to forget the past and just move forward,” Williams said. “They are hungry to win, and I’m excited about how much better we are going to get this season.”
Williams is pleased with her teams’ effort and ability to win their season opener.
“This team has worked extremely hard. It’s been a tough preseason with the coaching change and growing pains but I couldn’t be more elated for them to pull out that win,” Williams said. “It was truly a team win.”
The Eastern Kentucky University women’s basketball team will travel to Memphis on Saturday to face the Tigers at 3 p.m.