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EKU Holds Off Eastern Illinois in Defensive Battle

Tre King - Photo by EKU Athletics

RICHMOND, Ky. – December 30, 2020

Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team held off Eastern Illinois University down the stretch for a 69-61 victory on Wednesday at McBrayer Arena.

The Colonels (8-2, 2-1 OVC) saw a 9-point lead early in the second half dwindle to just one point on two occasions, but the Panthers (3-5, 0-1 OVC) couldn’t get over the hump. 

The Eastern Kentucky lead was just two, 56-54, after Marvin Johnson’s dunk for EIU with 7:49 left in the game.  EKU answered with a 7-2 run to build a 7-point cushion.  A steal, dunk and free throw from Curt Lewis put the home team in front 63-56.

Eastern Illinois was within four in the final minute, but Tre King put back a miss with 50 seconds remaining and the Colonels made all four of their free throws in the final minute to hang on.

Eastern Kentucky held the Panthers to 33 percent shooting on the night and forced 24 turnovers.  EKU shot 44 percent from the field for the game and turned those EIU turnovers into 23 points.

King scored a game-best 22 points and pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds.  Lewis finished with nine points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists.  Wendell Green Jr. had nine points, five steals, three rebounds and three assists.

King’s put-back early in the second half gave Eastern Kentucky a 9-point lead, 45-36.  A lay-up and free throw from Sammy Friday IV with 12:45 left in the game got EIU to within one, 51-50.  George Dixon’s two free throws with 11:50 showing on the clock made it a 1-point game again, 53-52. 

Dixon put Eastern Illinois in front by one, 23-22, with 6:51 remaining in the first half, but Cooper Robb scored the next four points for EKU and the Colonels never trailed again.  Robb’s jumper and two free throws made it 26-23.  A 3-pointer by Robb from the left wing later in the first half pushed the margin to six, 33-27.  An old-fashioned 3-point play by Lewis with 29 seconds to play in the first half sent the home team to the locker room with a 7-point advantage, 43-36.

EKU made 53 percent of its shots in the first half and turned nine Eastern Illinois turnovers into 14 points.

Dixon led the Panthers with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

The Colonels are scheduled to play at Austin Peay on Saturday.  Tip-off in Clarksville, Tennessee is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET.

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