Making only one field goal in nearly 11 minutes of the second half doesn’t result in very many basketball wins.
It didn’t for Morehead State University Saturday against Eastern Kentucky, either. That, Corey Walden’s 19 points and Glenn Cosey’s 18 were enough for the Colonels to leave Ellis T. Johnson Arena with a 76-65 win.
Brent Arrington’s tip-in with 15:20 to go in the game sent the Eagles to a 44-44 tie. Problem was, Arrington’s layup with 4:32 left was the next field goal, and by then, Eastern was ahead, 69-61. In between, MSU made 12 of 14 free throws.
Walden said being a little more active on defense helped. “... Just touch balls and get deflections and protect the basket the whole time,” he said.
Eastern (11-6, 2-2 Ohio Valley Conference) broke a two-game conference losing streak. Cosey talked about a sense of urgency because the Colonels couldn’t afford to fall further behind MSU and Belmont in the OVC East.
“We needed this win bad,” Cosey said. “We lost two in a row, so this win was big for us to get us back on the winning track. We’ve got to take care of business at home. We lost to a good (Murray State) team.”
MSU guard Angelo Warner said Eastern’s guards were better last night. “I feel like we didn’t follow our game plan as written,” he said.
Walden and Cosey weren’t the only reasons why Eastern won: MSU committed 20 turnovers to Eastern’s 10; the Colonel bench outscored the Eagles, 16-6; and Eastern scored 18 points in the paint to the Eagles’ eight.
“Defensively, we just weren't very solid (Saturday),” MSU senior forward Drew Kelly said. “Give them credit, they’re a very good team, but we're better than that.”
MSU coach Sean Woods felt the game was won in the backcourt. Eagle point guards Kareem Storey and Luka Pajkovic had six and four turnovers, respectively, while Walden had four assists, Cosey had five to go with just two turnovers apiece.
Woods feared turnovers might decide the outcome.
“I was a prophet, wasn't I?” Woods said. “Their guard play was better than out guard play.”
Eastern coach Jeff Neubauer, meanwhile, thought the same thing as Walden about defense, but in fewer words.
“Our problem over the last three conference games has been our basket protection,” Neubauer said. “We've really not done what we've done in the past, which is be a great charge-taking team. (Last night) I thought our basket protection was outstanding, and maybe the difference in the game.”
MSU made just five field goals in the second half and was 18-for-41 (43.9 percent) for the game. There were two Eagle highlights: making 25 of 27 free throws (92.6 percent); and outrebounding the Colonels, 34-22.
Here's how close Saturday's first half was: seven ties, nine lead changes, and neither team led by more than four.
Storey had a hand in everything early — two points and assists to Billy Reader and Angelo Warner in less than four minutes.
Eastern never led in Wednesday’s 84-77 loss to Murray State, but last night, the Colonels went ahead, 7-6, on Cosey’s two free throws, part of his 14 first-half points.
Both MSU and Eastern got most of their first-half scoring from their guards. Cosey, Walden, Orlando Williams (14 points), Marcus Lewis and Isaac McGlone combined for 31 of the Colonels’ 35 points, while Warner (who led the Eagles with nine points), Arrington (seven points) and Storey teamed up for 20 of 33.
Warner led the Eagles with 17 points for the game, Kelly had 15, and Arrington added 11.
Woods likely was not happy with his team’s nine turnovers after 20 minutes. He might have been equally upset with Cosey’s seven points over the final five minutes, including four in the final 2:40.
Walden opened the second stanza with four points less than a minute into the second half. Two minutes later, Kelly's fallaway 3-pointer from the right wing gave MSU its last lead, 42-41.
Notes: EKU leads the series, 106-75, and the Colonels improved to 39-45 in Morehead. … Former Elliott County star Timmy Knipp scored six points on 2-of-3 shooting in eight minutes … MSU hosts Southeast Missouri at 7 p.m. Thursday, and Eastern is home against Belmont Thursday at 7.