MOREHEAD — What a difference a few days can make.
Wednesday, after a 77-64 home-floor loss to Murray State, Eastern Kentucky Coach Jeff Neubauer was concerned about a three-game "slippage" in his team's defensive play.
Saturday night, defense was the difference as the Colonels topped intrastate rival Morehead State 76-65 in Johnson Arena.
"Our problem 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. Tonight I though our basket protection was outstanding, and maybe the difference in the game."
Jeff Johnson, making his first start of the season, drew the first charge, and Neubauer said "basket protection" became contagious from there.
"This is easily the best defensive game we've played in the OVC," Neubauer said, "so that's why we won."
Corey Walden paced the Colonels with 19 points, while tying a career high of six steals. Backcourt mate Glenn Cosey added 18 points.
Together, Walden and Cosey totaled nine assists to only four turnovers.
"Their guard play outplayed our guard play," Morehead Coach Sean Woods said. "Their guard play played like the veteran guard play that everybody in the league thought they could play like. They like you playing 'over the top' and they want to make you throw the ball over the top, and every time we did we were successful. But we just didn't do it enough times.
"And then we started driving, getting frustrated, which led to turnovers. Our two point guards — we had 20 turnovers, they had 10 of them just by themselves."
Four Eagles fouled out.
EKU (11-6, 2-2 Ohio Valley Conference) also got 14 points off the bench from Orlando Williams, who hit two of the team's nine three-pointers.
That, along with a 19-for-23 night at the free-throw line, was enough to overcome a 34-22 disadvantage in rebounds.
"We needed this win bad," Cosey said. "We lost two in a row, so this win's big for us to get back on the winning track. We've got to take care of business at home (Thursday against Belmont)."
Angelo Warner scored 17 points for Morehead (11-7, 2-1). Drew Kelly added 15 and Brent Arrington had 11. Chad Posthumus, averaging 12.4 rebounds, grabbed 10 and added six points and three blocks.
A back-and-forth first half ended with Eastern on top 35-33.
An Arrington put-back tied the score at 44 with 15:20 left, but that would be the Eagles' last field goal for more than 10½ minutes.
Morehead knocked down its first 18 free throws and 25 of 27 in the game to keep things close.
By the time Arrington ended the field-goal drought with a fast-break bucket, though, Eastern led 69-61 with 4:32 left.
"We just wanted to be as active as possible the whole game, just touch balls and get deflections and protect the basket the whole time," Walden said.
Kelly said that throughout the game, "I felt a sense of, 'We need to put this thing away before it gets out of hand,' like it did. I felt like we made a run ... and then we got broke down defensively and they hit a three.
"Defensively, we just weren't very solid tonight. Give them credit. They're a very good team, but we're better than that. We can play defense much better than what we did tonight."
"We didn't follow our game plan as written," he said. "... I feel like their guards were better than our guards tonight. They just made more plays than we did.
"I know EKU's a good team but ... our team is way better than that team. We've just got to go back to the drawing board and fix things."
The teams will meet again Feb. 8 at Richmond.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.