Saturday, March 7, 2015

Farewell to the Colonels

Jeff Neubauer has been the coach at Eastern since he replaced Travis Ford after the 2005 season.  He took the Colonels to the NCAA Tournament in 2007, and has had a winning conference record in almost every year he's been at Richmond.  Over the last three years, his teams have been really good -- 12-4 in the OVC in 2013, 11-5 in the OVC last year, and 11-5 again this year.  Last year, Eastern stormed through the OVC tournament with upset wins over Murray and Belmont to make the NCAA, where the Colonels led Kansas for much of the game before falling 80-69.  All in all, a great year for EKU.

This year's team grabbed national attention on December 19 when the Colonels made 14-26 three-point shots in a 72-44 blowout road victory over Miami of Florida.  But they couldn't maintain that level of play, and after overtime losses at Tennessee Tech and Murray State, EKU's record was only 11-9.  From then on, however, Eastern went 8-1 -- with its only loss being a 66-61 defeat at always-tough Belmont.  EKU finished on top of the OVC East Division, thus earning a bye to the OVC semi-finals.

Last night, EKU faced Belmont for the third time this season.  This game, which was a rematch of last year's OVC Final, has become one of the best rivalries the old conference has seen.  It's always difficult to beat Belmont, especially in Nashville, and EKU had its work cut out.  They gave it a great shot -- jumping out to a 33-26 halftime lead.  But Belmont clawed back into the game, which turned into a seesaw, back-and-forth defensive struggle.  Eastern's three-point shooting failed them -- the Colonels went only 5-19 from behind the arc, and Belmont came away with a 53-52 victory.  It was a heartbreaking loss for Eastern, but the Colonel fans can feel good about how their team has responded to the challenge from Belmont in recent years.  When Belmont joined the league a few years ago, I thought they would dominate the OVC East -- and the whole conference, for that matter.  But EKU has done a great job of meeting that challenge.

The Eastern Kentucky Colonels finish with a record of 19-11 overall, and 11-5 in the OVC.  They finished in first place in the OVC East, and lost by one point in the OVC Semi-Finals.  Their defeat leaves four Kentucky teams still fighting for the 2015 National Championship.

No comments:

Post a Comment