RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team weathered a hot start and a late run by Jacksonville State University for an 80-67 win tonight at McBrayer Arena.
With the win, Eastern (21-6, 10-3 OVC) has secured a top-4 seed in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. The Colonels also set a new school record for wins during the regular season.
The Gamecocks (15-10, 7-7 OVC) began the game by hitting on 12 of their first 15 shot attempts and took a nine-point lead, 27-18, on a 3-pointer by Rico Sanders midway through the first half.
The Colonels righted the ship behind a 15-2 run. Glenn Cosey scored the first 10 points on two 3-pointers and a couple of jumpers. A Tarius Johnson lay-up capped the spurt and gave EKU a four-point lead, 33-29, with 4:28 left in the first stanza.
After the hot start from the field, the Gamecocks hit just one of their next 10 attempts and closed out the half by making just 3-of-14. Eastern led 39-34 at the break.
EKU started the second half with a 20-9 run to pull away. Johnson hit a 3-pointer and Cosey knocked down a trey and a free throw after being fouled. Jeff Johnson’s lay-up polished off the run and made it a 16-point game, 59-43, with 11:31 left to play. Eastern took its largest lead of 19 points on a lay-up by Tarius Johnson with just over nine minutes remaining.
The Gamecocks didn’t fold. The visitors went on a 21-5 run to get within four. Tarvin Gaines got the deficit to 10 with a 3-pointer at the 4:53 mark. Four straight by Gaines and a 3-pointer by Brian Williams finished it off and made it a 71-67 game with 1:57 to go.
Cosey answered with a 3-pointer out of an Eastern timeout and JSU failed to score again. The junior led five players in double figures for the home team with 21 points.
Corey Walden finished with 19 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Tarius Johnson contributed his first double-double as a Colonel with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Gaines had 21 points for JSU. Williams finished 17.
Eastern Kentucky shot 53 percent and out-rebounded Jacksonville State by seven. The Gamecocks made 47 percent of their shots.
The Colonels will play their final home game of the regular season on Wednesday when Austin Peay visits McBrayer Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
EKU is now 8-0 this when scoring 80 or more points. Eastern is 34-5 under Jeff Neubauer when scoring 80-plus.
Jacksonville State entered the game with the best scoring defense in the OVC (63.5 ppg), but EKU scored 80 points. The Gamecocks were ninth in the league in scoring (65.9 ppg).
The Colonels entered the game averaging 5.8 fewer turnovers than their opponents, best in the OVC and fourth in the nation. However, JSU had one less turnover than EKU tonight.
Eastern Kentucky had not turned the ball over more than 12 times in its previous five games, but finished with 14 tonight.
The Colonels had out-scored their previous three opponents 93-17 off turnovers before being out-scored 25-11 off turnovers by Jacksonville State.
EKU has already clinched its 11th straight appearance in the OVC tournament. The Colonels are one of only four teams to appear in each of the past 10 conference tournaments.
Eastern has its first 20-win season since 2009-10 and the eighth 20-win season in program history. Jeff Neubauer is the first coach in program history to lead the Colonels to three 20-win seasons.
EKU has already clinched a winning season, the fourth under head coach Jeff Neubauer. Out of 18 head coaches in program history, Neubauer is one of only five with four or more winning seasons.
EKU now leads the all-time series 13-7. The Colonels are 9-0 against Jacksonville State in Richmond.