Men's Basketball

Colonels get hot late for 3rd win in 3 nights

RICHMOND — Early in the second half Wednesday night, Eastern Kentucky trailed Texas-San Antonio by 15 points.

EKU's Justin Stommes, averaging 19.5 points, was scoreless. But not for long.

Stommes scored 17 in the last 14 minutes, including a game-winning three-pointer with 12 seconds left to lead the Colonels to a 74-72 victory at McBrayer Arena.

"That was a pretty special win right there against a very good basketball team," EKU Coach Jeff Neubauer said.

EKU (4-1) won for the third time in three nights in the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic. After Stommes hit his winning shot, UTSA (4-1) pushed the ball down the court.

"It was terrifying," Stommes said. "But, thankfully, we came out on top."

Demarco Stepter, a 6-foot-7 285-pounder, missed a contested shot from close range. Devin Gibson tried to put in a rebound shot, but the ball wedged between the rim and backboard as time expired. The Roadrunners looked in vain for a foul call.

Stommes, the tourney MVP, had seven assists and two rebounds to go with his 17 points. Papa Oppong added 14 points, followed by Joshua Jones with 12.

"During timeouts, we were telling each other we've got to come out and get this win," said Spencer Perrin, who chipped in with 11 points. "We never gave up."

Gibson and Omar Johnson scored 18 each for UTSA, and Morris Smith IV had 14. All of Johnson's points came on threes. Gibson added seven rebounds and seven assists.

"We executed our game plan, felt like we should have won the game to be honest," said Brooks Thompson, the UTSA coach. "But down the stretch, we didn't make the plays we needed to, and they did. And I didn't think that the calls were really going our way as well."

Eastern scored the first seven points. Perrin had the first five, then set up Josh Taylor's backdoor score.

The Roadrunners led 41-28 at halftime, scoring their first 15 points from three-point range and 24 of their first-half total. UTSA finished the game 13-for-24 on threes.

"They were persistent. They just stuck with it," Neubauer said of his team. "At halftime, I didn't raise my voice at all. I just talked to them about, 'Hey, we've got to go fight for this thing.' We had great leadership in the second half, especially from Josh Taylor, Joshua Jones and Justin Stommes."

Smith scored UTSA's first seven points of the second half, opening a 48-33 lead.

"The team has some really good shooters. I'm not going to try and force anything this year," said Stommes, a 6-7 junior. "I was looking for my shots because that's what I do best, is score. But I was just making the easy passes to guys who were knocking shots in and keeping us in the game."

Three-pointers by all-tourney pick Taylor, who finished with nine points and a career-high 10 rebounds, and Stommes bookended an 11-0 run to get EKU within four, 48-44.

UTSA eased back to a 62-50 lead when Smith hit a three-pointer with 7:51 left. EKU scored the next eight.

The margin was still four, 70-66, with 1:44 left.

Stommes hit a mid-range jumper with 1:32 left.

After a Roadrunners miss, Jones gave EKU a 71-70 lead, draining a three from the left corner with 52 seconds left.

Terry Fields sank a backdoor layup with 38 ticks left to give UTSA its last lead.

Later Wednesday in the CBE Classic, UC-Irvine defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 75-54.

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