MOREHEAD — Drew Kelly says he has "been borderline atrocious this year."
Until Thursday night.
The redshirt senior went off for a career-high 40 points to propel Morehead State to a 120-83 romp over South Dakota. His previous best was 26 points.
"It felt like a normal night" in warmups, he said. "To be completely honest, I didn't realize what I had until Coach (Sean) Woods said he was going to try to get me 40 at about the eight-minute mark and I looked up and saw I had 33 or 36."
Morehead (8-5) snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 4-1 at home.
Kelly, who also grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, was among six Eagles to score in double digits.
Next came Brent Arrington with 19 points and five steals. Angelo Warner added 16 points and nine assists. Chad Posthumus totaled 14 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Luka Pajkovic scored 11 points and Billy Reader had 10. Kareem Storey had six points and tied a school record with 16 assists.
MSU missed a school record for three-point shots made by one. The Eagles finished 17 of 32 from long distance (53.1 percent).
Kelly made 8 of 12 treys and was 14-for-23 overall, plus 4-for-4 at the free-throw line.
"I thought that every one that Drew hit tonight was wide open," Woods said. "Normally he wouldn't even take the shots. But he and I had a long talk, a heart-to-heart, two days ago and I just told him, 'It's your last year and you've got to lose yourself in it, and we're not going to be as successful as we want to be if you don't bring it.' And he brought it today with 40 and 12."
Kelly, 6-foot-6, completed his undergraduate degree in computer-aided drafting and graphic design this semester. Now he's set for graduate school in engineering management.
Although Thursday marked his collegiate best, he once scored 70 points in a game for Centennial, his high school in Franklin, Tenn.
"I guess that was pretty fun," Kelly said. "But as far as the four years (here), outside of beating Louisville in the NCAA Tournament, from an individual standpoint — I really don't like to put an emphasis on an individual standpoint but, yeah, I had fun tonight. Which was good for me and it was good for the team. I felt like the whole team as a unit had a lot of fun tonight against a very good South Dakota team."
The Coyotes (3-8), who beat Morehead last year, have lost five in a row.
Morehead, which has yet to be outrebounded, beat South Dakota 43-32 on the glass.
Morehead led 13-1 before Casey Kasperbauer hit South Dakota's first field goal 4:25 into the game. Kasperbauer led the Coyotes with 15 points, sinking 5 of 7 three-point attempts.
The lead grew to 38-16 when Pajkovic nailed a three-pointer.
The Coyotes came back with an 11-0 run to make it 38-27, but Kelly scored 12 of Morehead's last 19 points to give the Eagles a 57-34 halftime cushion.
The Eagles led by as many as 41 points in the waning minutes of the game.
"I just got lost in the game," Kelly said. "I wasn't worried about any repercussions about having a poor game or losing. I just wanted to do what I needed to do to help my team win. Forty points wasn't needed necessarily, but it was a hot night for me. I guess you could say it was my night to score, and I took advantage of it."
Morehead State at Tennessee
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.