RICHMOND — From Jeff Neubauer's point of view, Eastern Kentucky got the best of two worlds Saturday night.
His Colonels showed shortcomings, yet overcame those faults to edge Southern Illinois Edwardsville 78-72 in McBrayer Arena.
"Really pleased that our team found a way to win this game," Neubauer said after EKU's 10th consecutive home victory, including nine this season. "The point I made to them in the locker room after the game was that it's so much better to win a game and learn all the things that we're learning."
EKU (12-3, 2-0 Ohio Valley Conference) had a balanced attack from Mike DiNunno (17 points), Corey Walden (16), Eric Stutz (13) and Orlando Williams (12).
Ranked No. 23 among mid-major programs, EKU continues to roll after its best start (9-0) in 66 years.
The Colonels took care of the ball — eight turnovers to SIUE's 17 — and knocked down 19 of 21 free throws.
That was enough to spoil the Cougars' best shooting performance of the season.
SIUE, which came in shooting 40.8 percent and had topped 50 percent once all season, made 27 of 45 attempts, with 60 percent accuracy in each half.
Jerome Jones led the Cougars (4-8, 0-2) with 15 points, one more than Mark Yelovich. Michael Messer scored 12 and Kris Davis had 10.
SIUE, now 0-7 on the road, would overcome a 12-point deficit to briefly lead.
"These great experiences where we're up nine at half, another team comes firing back at us and actually takes the lead here on our home court, that's good for our team to learn from," Neubauer said. "And I'm really proud that we did win the game.
"Our defense at the half was very good, holding them to 28 points. At one point to start the second half, Edwardsville was 12 of 16 from the field, which is really poor. But then we did get stops down the stretch — the last four-to-six minutes — which allowed us to win the game."
A 37-28 halftime lead was EKU's largest to that point.
The Colonels closed the half with a 10-2 run.
DiNunno's three-pointer stretched the lead to 42-30 early in the second half, and Walden scored nine straight EKU points for a 56-46 lead midway through the period.
SIUE rallied with a 14-2 flurry to lead 60-58 with 7:21 left. Jones started things with a dunk, Davis and Jones hit back-to-back three-pointers, Yelovich sank two free throws, and Davis and Messer scored on drives.
EKU stayed poised, though, closing with a 20-12 run.
"Nothing really changed — just keep valuing the ball, keep moving the ball, get good shots," DiNunno said. "We had to defend. That's what was killing us. ... We knew we had to get a couple stops and play one possession at a time, so we just focused on defense."
The only bad news was that Walden fell hard with 3:45 left. He did not return, due to an apparent shoulder injury.
Williams and Jeff Johnson each scored four of the last 20 points. Glenn Cosey, playing with a broken finger on his right hand, added his only three points of the night. DiNunno also had three, and three others scored two each.
Williams' driving jumper with 5:09 left put the Colonels ahead to stay, 63-60.
"There wasn't much worry," DiNunno said of EKU's brief second-half deficit. "We've never really worried in those situations. ... We never really panic, and I think that's what helped up in that situation.
"And I think they got a little overconfident and they got a little lazy once they got that lead. They thought we were going to buckle. I could kind of sense it from their players on the court. But we just have too many guys who play the game the way Coach wants it to be played."
Another lesson learned.