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West Virginia holds off Eastern Kentucky

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Sparks, Browne and Murray lead Mountaineers to home win

In a game where the West Virginia Mountaineers were in control for the most part, the team had to repel a late second-half rally by the Eastern Kentucky Colonels in order to secure the victory in Morgantown on Sunday afternoon. 
 
The game opened up with a couple back door cuts and scores by the Colonels, but the Mountaineers quickly responded, going on a 13-2 run early in the first half. 
 
The West Virginia defense looked stiff and staggered the Eastern Kentucky offense, never allowing them to get into rhythm. Turnovers by excellent ball-handler Mike DiNunno hurt the Colonels early in the matchup.  
 
Late in the first half, the Mountaineers began to break open the scoring margin. After critical contributions from Gary Browne, who had a halftime-high 10 points to lead all scorers, the home team took a 13-point lead into the locker room, up 35-22.
 
At the intermission, it was obvious the Mountaineers were planning to spread the ball around, as eight of nine players scored for West Virginia in the first half.
 
In addition, they doubled Eastern Kentucky’s points off the bench and in the paint, along with Aaric Murray snagging eight rebounds, more than half of the away team’s total of 15. 
 
Early on in the second half, the Colonels kept hanging around, slowly sneaking their way back into the game. 
 
Down by 11 points with roughly fifteen minutes remaining, Eastern Kentucky’s DiNunno drove viciously to the hoop and scored with a soft finger-roll. He then miraculously stole the inbound pass and found an open Glenn Cosey, who nailed a deep-range 3 to cut the lead to six.
 
Momentum quickly shifted toward the visiting bench.  
 
Moments later, following an Eastern Kentucky steal, Glenn Cosey went coast-to-coast for an easy two, and Orlando Williams drilled a 3 from the corner to cut the deficit to two.  
 
However, in a quick sequence of events, the Mountaineers answered the 3-ball with a thunderous alley-oop from Eron Harris to Juwan Staten, which was answered again by another clutch 3 from Williams. 
 
With nine minutes remaining, the scoreboard read 54-53 in favor of West Virginia. 
 
Following an intentional foul by DiNunno on Browne, Cosey caught fire as he hit his fifth 3-pointer of the contest, which trimmed the lead to one once again. And after a stout defensive stint, Ryan Parsons came off the bench to provide a spark, hitting a triple to tie the game at 61. 
 
Eric Stutz then added two free throws to give the Colonels their first lead since there was 18:44 remaining in the first half. 
 
With Eastern Kentucky in the double bonus almost the entire second half, free throws came early and often for the Mountaineers. At game’s end, the Mountaineers tallied 39 free throws as opposed to the opponent’s 11 free throws. 
 
Dominique Rutledge, a 40 percent free throw shooter on the season, was called on down the stretch and capitalized on several critical free throws, to help maintain West Virginia's lead in the closing minutes.  
 
Despite more heroics from Cosey, who hit from downtown with 23.8 seconds left to pull Eastern Kentucky within three, West Virginia's free throws and defensive pressure proved too much for the Colonels to overcome. 
 
Leading by five, Staten found Keaton Miles for a ferocious slam-dunk to put an exclamation point on the Mountaineers’ victory. 
 
The difference in this contest was found at the free throw line, in both attempts and execution. WVU drained 32 of 39 free throws (82.1 percent), while the Colonels barely even got to the free throw line, capitalizing on 6 of 11 (54.5 percent).  
 
Eastern Kentucky’s Cosey finished with a game-high 21 points, 15 of which came from behind the arc, with double-digit scoring from teammates DiNunno and Williams as well.
 
The Mountaineers look to carry some momentum into next week as they make their Big 12 debut against the Oklahoma Sooners.

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