Highlights from EKU's big road test at #10 Illinois in the attached video.
URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team trailed No. 10 University of Illinois by only four points with less than 10 minutes to go, however the Fighting Illini scored nine unanswered on their way to a 66-53 win at Assembly Hall on Sunday.
Illinois (12-0) turned a 5-point halftime lead into a 14-point advantage in the first five minutes of the second stanza. The Colonels (9-1) did not fold. EKU righted the ship and slowly closed the gap with a 16-6 run of its own. An old-fashioned three-point play by Corey Walden capped the run and made it 42-38 with 9:48 remaining.
After an offensive rebound and dunk by Marcus Lewis kept Eastern within five with eight and a half to go, the Illini scored nine unanswered to go back in front by 14, 54-40, with 5:43 on the clock.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Tarius Johnson and Glenn Cosey quickly shaved six points off the deficit and got EKU within eight with just under four minutes to play, but the Colonels would get no closer.
Just like it has all season, Eastern Kentucky committed far fewer turnovers than its opponent. Illinois turned it over 20 times, 14 of which were by the Illini’s three starting guards of Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams and D.J. Richardson. The Colonels gave it away only 10 times.
Redshirt sophomore newcomer Corey Walden led EKU with 21 points, his most as a Colonel and just two away from tying his collegiate career-high. Cosey finished with 11 points. Mike DiNunno scored only two points but he had five assists, four steals and no turnovers in 34 minutes of action.
Paul had 17 points and a game-best nine rebounds for Illinois. Abrams added 13 points.
UI out-rebounded Eastern by 19, 42-23. The Colonels made just 36 percent of their shots from the field and 27 percent (6-for-22) from three-point range.
Eastern continues a season-long stretch of six consecutive road games on Wednesday at North Carolina A&T. Tip-off in Greensboro is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Eastern is ranked 18th in this week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25.
EKU’s 9-0 start was its best since beginning the 1946-47 season with 11 straight wins.
The Colonels’ nine game winning streak was its longest since winning 10 in a row in 1964-65.
Eastern Kentucky was the last remaining unbeaten mid-major team in the nation.
EKU junior Jeff Johnson was playing in his hometown tonight. Teammates Mike DiNunno (Chicago) and Marcus Lewis (Streamwood) were playing in their home state.
The Illini lead the nation with 10.8 three-pointers per game, but had only six against the Colonels.
Illinois has won 34 consecutive regular season home games over non-conference opponents.
Illinois senior Brandon Paul is the reigning USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week.