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Late EKU rally comes up short, Colonels fall to OVC West Division leader Murray State

The Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team pulled to within three of OVC West leader Murray State with 15 seconds remaining in the game; however, the host Racers held on for an 86-79 victory on Thursday night at the CFSB Center.

EKU (8-13, 1-5 OVC) trailed by 10, 81-71, with 35 seconds on the clock, before freshman guard Asante Gist exploded for eight of the game’s next nine points – all within a 20-second time frame – to make it 82-79 with 15 ticks showing.

Murray State (11-9, 5-1 OVC), however, went 4-of-4 from the free throw line in the final 15 seconds to fight off the EKU rally and hold on for the win.

Gist came off the bench to finish with a career-high 26 points. He also dished out a team-best five assists.

Sophomore forward Nick Mayo tallied 19 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two blocks (Photo Provided)

Junior forward Zach Charles notched his second double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and pulling down 12 boards He also blocked a team-best three shots.

Sophomore forward Nick Mayo tallied 19 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Despite playing through an injury, senior guard Isaac McGlone came off the bench to score 13 points, all of which came in the first half.

Gist’s last-minute surge was indicative of EKU’s fight the entire night. The Colonels trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, but rallied and pulled to within one, 37-36, when McGlone picked Bryce Jones’ pocket and converted a layup on the other end with 1:06 on the clock. A three-pointer near the buzzer by Jonathan Stark, however, sent the Racers into the locker room at the break up by five, 42-37.

Murray State ran out to an eight-point lead early in the second half, but, again, EKU kept fighting back. The Colonels pulled to within one, 58-57, on a three-pointer by Gist and then took their first – and only – lead of the game when Mayo slammed home a dunk to make it 59-58 with 9:43 remaining in the game.

The Racers responded with a 20-8 run over the next eight minutes and grabbed a 12-point advantage, 79-67, when Terrell Miller sank a pair of foul shots with 1:28 on the clock.

That set the stage for Gist’s offensive explosion in the waning moments.

Damarcus Croaker paced Murray State with 23 points, while Stark added 21 points. Miller finished with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

EKU out-rebounded Murray State, 32-30, and outscored the Racers in the paint, 40-36. The Colonels also received a season-high 41 points off the bench.

Eastern shot 52 percent (29-of-56) from the field in the loss, its best shooting performance since a win at Jacksonville on December 7. The Colonels also posted their best three-point shooting night – 42 percent (8-of-18) – since the win over Western Kentucky on November 30.

EKU returns to action at in-state rival Morehead State on Saturday. Tipoff from Johnson Arena is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.

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