Madison County

EKU men pull away from Eastern Illinois in second half

RICHMOND — A three-for-all broke out Saturday night in McBrayer Arena, and Eastern Kentucky is glad it did.

Trailing 26-24 after shooting 1-for-11 from three-point range in the first half, the Colonels hit seven straight en route to a 67-47 Ohio Valley Conference victory over Eastern Illinois.

"We're a team of shooters," said Justin Stommes, who shot 4-for-6 from long range after an 0-for-3 first half. "Sometimes they just don't fall. I think once someone hits one, everyone's confidence kind of gains."

Stommes led all scorers with 20 points as EKU improved to 15-11 overall, 9-6 in the OVC. The Colonels, who won 63-49 at Eastern Illinois last month, have beaten the Panthers nine times in a row in Richmond.

Jeff Johnson added 16 points. Spencer Perrin, a 6-foot-6 senior out of Boyle County, had 10 points and seven assists.

"Our team has fought back and been resilient all year," said Coach Jeff Neubauer, noting that the Colonels overcame second-half deficits in recent wins at Morehead State, Southeast Missouri and Jacksonville State. "Our team has really shown a lot of moxie. Tonight, in the locker room at halftime, the vocal tones were very calm. It was all about, 'Our team needs to come out and respond and play well,' and our team really did it.

"Spencer Perrin was our ignition tonight. He's the one that drove the ball and posted the ball and then was very unselfish, and passed it as well as he has passed it in his career. His teammates paid him off."

The Colonels, 9-for-26 (34.6 percent) from the field at halftime, went 16-for-23 (69.6) the rest of the way.

EKU won the points-off-turnovers battle 26-11.

The Panthers (8-17, 4-11), losing their seventh in a row, were led by Jeremy Granger with 15 points.

The first half included seven ties and eight lead changes. EKU muted its offensive struggles with sticky defense. EKU came in third in the league in defense, holding opponents to 61.8 points.

"We pride ourselves on holding people under 60 points," Johnson said. "That's our goal every game, so (that) we held them to 40-some points is really good. We've just got to keep it up for the next couple weeks."

EKU made 10 of its first 11 shots in the second half. Seven were three-pointers — three by Joshua Jones, two by Stommes and one each by Johnson and Josh Daniel.

"We were open," Johnson said. "We got the ball inside to Spencer, and he did a good job of spraying it out to the shooters."

EKU went on a 32-11 run to pull out to a 60-41 lead.

"Anytime you can get it to Spencer," Stommes said, "he's either going to score, or he's going to get a good shot for someone else. ... Spencer got everyone good looks by passing."

The Colonels held Eastern Illinois to a pair of sub-30-point halves, and nearly a sub-20 second half. The Panthers shot 0-for-5 from long range in the second half after a 3-for-4 opening 20 minutes.

The outcome leaves EKU in fifth place with three OVC games to play.

The Colonels have clinched a tournament berth but hope to improve their seeding. The league's 3-4 seeds will get a first-round bye, while the top two teams earn a double-bye to the semifinals.