RICHMOND, Ky. – Behind a career-high 35 points from Corey Walden, Eastern Kentucky clinched first place in the Ohio Valley Conference East Division and the No. 2 seed in next week’s league tournament with a 70-67 victory over Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
EKU (19-10, 11-5 OVC) won eight of its final nine regular season games. As the No. 2 seed in the OVC Tournament, the Colonels will play in the semifinals on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET. The game, at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, will air live on ESPNU.
Eastern will face the winner of the quarterfinal contest between the No. 3 seed Belmont and the winner of the No. 6 Eastern Illinois/No. 7 SIU Edwardsville first round game.
With the game tied 38-38 and 53-53, Walden stepped up with big baskets. The first time he was fouled on a three-point attempt from the right corner and hit all three free throws. With the game knotted at 53-53 and 6:05 showing on the clock, the senior drove to the basket, converted the lay-up, was fouled and made his ensuing free throw.
Walden connected on 11 of his 14 attempts from the field and with five steals tied the EKU career record for thefts. Walden has matched Jamie Ross (1988-92) with 221 career steals.
Charles Jackson’s two free throws got the Golden Eagles to within 57-55, but Eric Stutz had the answer. The senior drained a three-pointer from the right wing for a 5-point Colonel lead.
Javon McKay’s three-pointer cut the TTU deficit to one, 66-65, with 50 seconds left to play. Once again, Walden had the answer. He laid it in off a pass to the hoop from Stutz to stretch the margin back to three with 23 seconds to play. Walden capped the game by rebounding Aleksa Jugovic’s game-tying three-point attempt with 5.5 seconds left and scoring his final two points at the free throw line.
Stutz contributed 17 points and five assists. Jackson finished with 15 points and 17 rebounds for Tennessee Tech (12-18, 4-12 OVC). Torrance Rowe had 16 points and five assists for the visitors.
The Golden Eagles went 7-for-15 from three-point range in the first half, but made just 3-of-9 in the second and shot 39 percent from the field for the game. The Colonels shot 51 percent from the field.
Seniors Robbie Stenzel, Deverin Muff, Timmy Knipp, Eric Stutz and Corey Walden were honored before the game.
Corey Walden began the day as the only player ranked in the top-10 in the OVC in scoring (2nd), field goal percentage (9th), assists (7th) and steals (1st). He finished with 35 points, five steals, two rebounds and one assist.
Corey Walden’s previous career-high was 33 points set on Nov. 26, 2014 as Southern Utah and matched on Dec. 30, 2014 at Coppin State.
With its 19th win of the season, the 2014-15 team is now tied with the 1990-91, 1986-87 and 1964-65 teams for the 10th most wins in program history.
Corey Walden now needs one more steal to break the EKU career record of 221 held by Jamie Ross (1988-92).
Eastern has shot 50 percent or better in six of its last eight games and eight times in its last 13 contests.
EKU is 39-6 in its last 45 home games.
Tennessee Tech began the day 10th in the OVC in scoring defense (69.8 ppg).
Eastern Kentucky entered the game second in the nation in turnover margin (+7.8) and fifth in steals (9.8 spg). EKU had four fewer turnovers and seven steals.
EKU now leads the all-time series 72-58 and is 43-22 against the Golden Eagles in Richmond.