RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky held Jacksonville State scoreless for the majority of the final three minutes, resulting in a 63-57 victory in McBrayer Arena on Thursday.
The win kept Eastern (18-10, 10-5 OVC) on pace to win the Ohio Valley Conference East Division. With another home court victory on Saturday against Tennessee Tech, the Colonels will clinch first place in the East, the No. 2 seed in next week’s conference tournament and the double bye that comes along with it.
After D.J. Felder capped a 14-6 Gamecock run with a three-pointer to get within one, 55-54, with 2:48 left in the game, JSU didn’t score again until 18 seconds remained. #Corey Walden# hit a lay-up and two free throws, and #Denzel Richardson# made two from the stripe for six straight EKU points.
Jacksonville State (12-18, 5-10 OVC) missed two 3-pointers and two free throws in the final minute before Malcolm Drumwright made a trey with 17.7 seconds left to cut the Eastern lead to four, 61-57. Walden made two more free throws with 12 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Seniors #Timmy Knipp#, #Eric Stutz#, and Walden led the charge with 43 of Eastern’s 63 total points. Knipp and Stutz both had 14 points and five rebounds apiece. Walden had 15 points – all in the second-half – eight rebounds, and four steals.
After the halftime break the Gamecocks came out on an 8-2 run to tie the game, capped by a three-point shot from the right wing from Darion Rackley. Rackley then scored another triple to give JSU their last lead of the game, 36-35, with 14:47 on the clock.
Eastern answered with a 14-4 run, polished off by a lay-up and free throw from Walden. The Gamecocks scored just four points during a stretch of 7:18.
Despite trailing by nine, with its postseason hopes on the line, JSU didn’t fold and began its own run that would get the visitors within one with less than three minutes to play.
Jacksonville State had three players in double digits. Felder finished with a game-best with 21 points and nine rebounds. He hit on 5-of-9 three-point attempts. Rackley and Drumwright had 10 each.
The Colonels shot 94 percent (15-of-16) from the free throw line while JSU made 16.7 percent (1-for-6). EKU out-rebounded the Gamecocks by one and had five fewer turnovers.
Eastern will conclude its 2014-15 regular season on Saturday at home against Tennessee Tech. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Senior Day activities will be held before the game.
Corey Walden now needs six more steals to break the EKU career record of 221 held by Jamie Ross (1988-92).
EKU is 38-6 in its last 44 home games.
Eastern Kentucky entered the game second in the nation in turnover margin (+7.8) and fifth in steals (9.8 spg). EKU had five fewer turnovers and 11 steals.
The Jacksonville State bench scored one point on Thursday night. EKU received 16 points off its bench.
Eastern has won nine of the last 10 games against Jacksonville State and is a perfect 11-0 all-time against the Gamecocks in Richmond.