After Saturday’s game, one would probably guess Eastern Kentucky got into Ellis T. Johnson Arena through the back door.
Eastern Kentucky piled up points in the paint, many off back door cuts, to defeat rival Morehead State 68-47.
Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer was surprised his team got so many easy looks in the paint.
“I think the first time we played we only got one back door,” Neubauer said. “We weren’t expecting it, but our guys have really learned how to pass and cut. Even some plays that weren’t designed to go back door gave us some easy looks for some dunks at the rim.”
The Colonels dominated the paint, putting in 38 points compared to Morehead State’s 10.
The Eagles struggled to put the ball in the basket period, shooting just 32.6 percent from the field and hitting just 14 field goals in the game — the lowest field goal total for the Eagles all season.
The final statistic was brought down by an abysmal 21.7-percent shooting mark in the first half.
“It’s just our guards are having a tough time getting us into our offense,” MSU coach Sean Woods said. “Our guard play ... we just have to get them better. We’re struggling at the guard position right now.”
Morehead State turned the ball over 17 times, including a stretch late in the first half that had four straight turnovers leading to an 8-0 Eastern Kentucky run. The run gave the Colonels a 10-point lead at halftime.
The Colonels had 24 points off turnovers. The Eagles only had four points off 11 turnovers.
This is nothing new for Morehead State, which has struggled with turnovers all season. The Eagles have an Ohio Valley Conference high of 418 turnovers this season.
“That’s been our deal,” Woods said. “We just turn the basketball over and teams take advantage of it. Twenty-four points off turnovers and we lose by 21.”
Eastern Kentucky has the best turnover margin the OVC, with a plus-5.8.
For Neubauer though, Saturday’s effort was the best defensive effort from his team this season.
“Early in the season we had some dominant games defensively,” Neubauer said. “But this is the best that we’ve done. We held Morehead to 20 points in the first half ... that’s really hard to do.”
Leading the way for the Colonels was Glenn Cosey, who finished with a game-high 17 points.
After missing six games with injury, Cosey has been the high scorer in three of Eastern Kentucky’s past four games.
The reigning OVC newcomer of the week said after sitting out for two weeks, he was feeling a little antsy.
“I wanted to play in every game,” Cosey said. “I was getting mad at the team doctor, I was mad at everyone. I wanted to help my team to win, especially when we lost to Belmont twice. I hate losing.”
Eric Stutz scored 12 points, while Corey Walden added 11 points for Eastern Kentucky (19-6, 8-3 OVC).
Neubauer still points to the defense as the key to his team’s win, especially after letting his assistants take over the defensive coaching duties.
“Our whole focus is how good our defense can be by the final third of the season,” Neubaurer said. “(Assistant coaches) already had a big part in our defense. I haven’t shown a clip of film all week, it’s been our assistant coaches.”
Angelo Warner had a team-high 16 points for Morehead State (11-14,5-6), while Bakari Turner was the only other Eagle in double figures with 10.
Woods said something needs to be done, or the season won’t end well for his team.
“We’ve got to figure this thing out,” Woods said. “Or these seniors, who I’m very disappointed in, are going to have a mediocre senior year.”
Knipp Closer to Home
Former All-Area Player of the Year Timmy Knipp came back to where he once shined for Elliott County High School.
Knipp, who averaged nearly 30 points per game his senior season for the Lions in 2010-11, is averaging 4.7 points per game for Eastern Kentucky.
After winning two region championships at Ellis T. Johnson Arena, the sophomore was happy to be in front of friends and family again.
“It feels good that they came out and watched me play,” Knipp said. “Especially those who haven’t seen me in a while. It’s good to be home.”
The 2010-11 Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year scored two points and had two rebounds in seven minutes of work on Saturday.
He also got a pretty big cheer from the Morehead State section when he entered the game.
“We had a pretty big EKU cheering section,” Knipp said. “But it felt pretty good to still get love in here.”