Cozart’s free throws in second overtime lift Eastern Kentucky into CBI title game
The College Basketball Invitational is not the NCAA Tournament, but Eastern Kentucky is taking advantage of the third-tier postseason event to craft a March Madness all its own.
Claiming the CBI championship trophy requires four victories in four days at Daytona Beach, Fla.
After Tuesday night’s win, the Colonels had three-and-a-half.
Eastern Kentucky defeated Cleveland State in overtime on Sunday, Indiana State in overtime on Monday and Southern Utah in double overtime in Tuesday night’s nationally televised semifinals. All of those five-minute overtime periods add up to an extra 20 minutes, the equivalent of half a game.
Tuesday’s 108-106 win propelled EKU, the No. 8 seed in the 16-team tournament, into Wednesday’s championship game against No. 3 Charlotte. The 49ers advanced with an 63-56 win over Radford in Tuesday night’s second semifinal.
Former Madison Central star Isaiah Cozart, who has been on fire throughout the postseason, came up clutch again for Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday night, scoring a career-high 31 points. Cozart was fouled grabbing an offensive rebound with 1.1 seconds left in the second overtime and sank both free throws to provide the winning points.
Cozart, who made 14 of his 17 shots from the field, also had 13 rebounds and blocked four shots, securing his third straight CBI double-double.
Devontae Blanton scored 24 points, Leland Walker 16, Tayshawn Comer 15 and Cooper Robb 14 for the Colonels (23-13).
Blanton made four steals and Walker three as EKU recorded 12 thefts among the 22 turnovers committed by Southern Utah (24-13). The Colonels, who committed only nine turnovers themselves in an up-and-down battle, generated 23 points off Southern Utah’s miscues.
Eastern Kentucky withstood a barrage of 16 three-pointers from the Thunderbirds, who were fourth in scoring in NCAA Division I this season.
Southern Utah led 46-41 at halftime. The teams were tied at 85 at the end of regulation and at 99 after the first overtime.
For Cozart, the winning free throws were redemption.
His dunk with 31 seconds left in regulation tied the game. Southern Utah’s subsequent drive to the basket missed the mark. Cozart grabbed the rebound and was fouled with four seconds to go. He missed the front end of a bonus situation and EKU survived a missed three-point attempt by the Thunderbirds at the buzzer to extend the game.