Behind a stellar performance from senior forward Treshaad Williams, the Morehead State men’s basketball team dominated Eastern Kentucky at Ellis Johnson Arena on Saturday night. The Eagles knocked off the visiting Colonels 80-54 for their third straight win.
Williams scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the first half, draining six of eight shots as the Eagles built a 41-30 halftime lead. EKU took an 11-8 lead just under six minutes into the game on a three-pointer by freshman point guard Asante Gist, but the Colonels’ advantage was short-lived.
Two possessions later Morehead beat the press and Williams made a strong move on the baseline, drawing a foul as he finished a layup. He sank the free throw for a 15-13 Eagles lead. The next trip down the court senior guard Xavier Moon shook his defender with a nasty crossover and sank a pull-up jumper and the Eagles were off to the races, breaking off a 14-2 run over a three minute span to take a 26-15 lead with ten minutes left in the half.
Moon said Williams’ effort on both ends of the floor is always infectious.
“He’s a huge energy guy for us, he helps everybody get up. And I know when he catches it down low he’s always gonna finish, so I just try to get into the paint and find him … he was big tonight.”
Moon was crucial to the victory as well, as EKU defenders struggled to stay in front of the senior guard all night long. The Eagles’ leading scorer on the year finished with 11 points and six assists to just one turnover, routinely beating the press and finding open shooters.
Morehead interim head coach Preston Spradlin didn’t pull any punches when asked about Moon’s importance.
“He’s the best guard in the league, I’m not afraid to say it,” he said. “Xavier is a special, special player. He’s got an unbelievable feel for the game and I can’t teach him that, no one can. He’s a student of the game and he really works.”
While Morehead was the model of efficiency on offense, shooting 51.6 percent from the field the Colonels couldn’t manage to find a rhythm. EKU hit just 35.7 percent of its shots, including a 5-for-22 mark from the perimeter. Morehead was effective at limiting Eastern’s leading scorer Nick Mayo, often double-teaming the 6-9 sophomore forward when he caught the ball in the post. Mayo ended with a team-high 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting.
“Nick (Mayo) is a really good player, he’s as good as any big guy in our league,” Spradlin said. “We just did a great job tonight of guarding him by committee, we had to because he’s a terrific player. The shots he made were really tough ones, I thought we defended him pretty well.”
Saturday’s contest highlighted two teams heading in opposite directions. Eastern has now dropped five straight games and finds itself in the basement of the Ohio Valley Conference’s East Division with a 1-6 conference record (8-14 overall).
Morehead State has weathered early season turmoil and placed itself right in the thick of the OVC East race. Third-year head coach Sean Woods resigned on Dec. 15, two days after being charged with misdemeanor battery in Indiana. The charges stemmed from an investigation into allegations by two former Eagles players that Woods assaulted them.
After Woods was suspended, the Eagles dropped six straight games. But they’ve found their footing under Spradlin and have now won seven of their last 10 games and are tied for second place at 5-2 in the OVC (9-11 overall), two games behind Belmont.
Moon said he’s proud of the fight the Eagles have shown during the turnaround.
“This is a really resilient team, we didn’t let that beat us. We went into a little slump but we just kept fighting every day,” he said. “We all believed in coach (Spradlin) and what he had to bring to the table and we just kept getting after it.”
Moon said Spradlin’s patience has helped the Eagles overcome adversity this year.
“One of the main things that’s helped is he’s letting us play free offensively. As long as we’re moving the ball and sharing it with each other, if we make a mistake he doesn’t take us out, he just tells us to make up for it on the defensive end. He believes in us so much that we feel the energy from him and we feel like we want to give him our all.”
Eastern Kentucky: 8 p.m. Thursday at Jacksonville State
Morehead State: 7 p.m. Thursday at Tennessee Tech