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NCAA Tournament Recap: Eastern Kentucky Colonels Out Muscled by the Kansas Jayhawks, 80-69

The No. 15 Colonels could not complete the upset and become this year's Florida Gulf Coast. The Colonels were out rebounded by the Kansas Jayhawks 43 to 19 without KU center Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks use their size advantage to defeat EKU.

EKU's Orlando Williams walking off the court after losing to Kansas
EKU's Orlando Williams walking off the court after losing to Kansas

Eastern Kentucky gave Kansas all they could handle, but at the end of the day, the Jayhawks interior play ended the Colonels possible Cinderella tale. The Colonels were raining down 3-pointers all game, but it was not enough to overcome KU’s Jamari Traylor and Tarik Black who assisted in out rebounding the Colonels 43 to 19 and imposed their will in the post. EKU ended up losing 80-69, but it was a very tight match until the final four minutes.

"We knew that Kansas was a great rebounding team and we absolutely had to steal it before they could rebound it," said EKU Head coach Jeff Neubauer. "I just told our team in the locker room after the game I am incredibly proud to be their coach and they have done a phenomenal job this season."

The Colonels jumped out the gate. Guard Glenn Cosey hit two early 3-pointers to give his team an early 10-6 lead. EKU had some great ball movement and were knocking down 3-pointers, which began to frustrate Kansas.

At the first three media timeouts, the Colonels held a lead, but none bigger than their 9-point lead midway through the first half. The Colonels went on 9-2 run capped off by a Cosey 3-pointer to give them 23-14 lead that forced Kansas to call a timeout.

Kansas slowly chipped at the Colonels lead. Another factor of Kansas' push was that Cosey did not score the rest of the first half, which did not allow EKU to add to their lead. After being down most of the first half, Andrew Wiggins gave the Jayhawks a brief 28-27 lead, but EKU’s Jeff Johnson hit a 3-pointer to reclaim the lead for the Colonels.

Just before halftime, the Colonels were about the go into the locker room down 2 points. However, KU’s Traylor fouled EKU’s Orlando Williams in the acting of shooting a 3-pointer to give the Colonels an opportunity to reclaim the lead. Williams hit two of his three free throws to tie the game at 32-32 going into halftime.

The Jayhawks claimed a lead coming out of halftime, but that is when Colonels guard Tarius Johnson began to catch fire.

Johnson began to carry the load for the Colonels as Cosey became absence during the second half. He and forward Eric Stutz kept the momentum going for the EKU as they went on a 10-0 run to get a 48-45 lead with 12:55 left in the second half.

KU tied the game at 56 with 8:55 left in the second half. After the Jayhawks tied the game, they went on an 8-1 run to claim a 64-57 lead with 6:30 left in the second half. EKU did not have a field goal from the 8:55 mark until the 4:29 mark and that allowed Kansas to claim this lead.

EKU got within three points, but Kansas pulled away at the end of the game to make the final score an 11-point victory.

"Honestly, we try to keep the lead, like we have been doing in the past. We try to keep the lead, that's one of our motives," said Johnson. "And they got up on us and it was very discouraging. It is our fault because we play so hard and fought for each other, so it is very discouraging for us. But like I said, they were the better team tonight and they won."

The Colonels season ends as Kansas advances to play No. 10 seed Stanford in the round of 32.

"We obviously feel fortunate because I thought Eastern Kentucky was well prepared. They played great. They played loose and certainly gave us everything we wanted," said Kansas Head coach Bill Self. Fortunately the second half we settled down a little bit and took better care of the basketball. It was a hard-fought game and one in which we had to work our tail off for 40 minutes to come out with a win."