The Eagles, who had only won four previous times in 19 tries at EIU, improved to 9-14 overall and 5-5 in the OVC. The host Panthers slid to 6-4 in conference contests and 13-10 overall.
“This was our best and most important win of the season,” said head coach Preston Spradlin. “We got punched in the mouth early and fell into a big hole, but we made the right shots, made the right passes, called the right timeouts, and this was a huge team win. Everyone who played contributed.”
Harris, a forward from Louisville, scored 10 in the first half and finished with 12. He is now the 33rd member of MSU’s 1,000-point club.
“I am so proud of Lamontray. He has earned every single point of his career,” said Spradlin. “I am proud to have seen all 1,001 of his points since I have been a part of this program.”
Walker, whose previous career mark was 26 against UT Martin when he was a freshman in 2016-17, nailed 10 field goals and four three pointers. He was 6-of-7 from the floor in the final half when the Eagles outscored EIU 50-40, many on gritty drives into the lane with jump shots or lay-ins.
Sophomore James Baker also netted a career high with 15 points, including drilling all three of his shots from three-point range.
Morehead State was 12-of-14 from the free throw line in the second half and 16-of-21 overall, needing every one of them down the stretch. In fact, all 12 of the Eagles’ free throws were made in the final 42 seconds. The Eagles, at one point, had zero fouls in the second half with less than three minutes remaining. MSU’s ability to lock down on defense and not foul forced EIU into just hitting four free throws all night.
“Our defense was tremendous tonight. By not fouling it allowed us to not let them have open shots or looks late in the game and we could control the tempo. We haven;t been in that situation a lot and kind of messed it up a little bit, but that’s a learning experience for our young guys.”
A back-and-forth battle ensued in the final half. EIU led by as much as five, but the Eagles stayed within striking distance and finally gained the upperhand after a steal by De’Von Cooper and a clutch three-pointer by Baker with 1:02 left. That gave the Eagles a 72-69 advantage they never relinquished.
MSU pushed its lead to as much as seven (76-69) before EIU converted a four-point play to make it 79-76 with six ticks left. Baker, Walker and Djimon Henson were true on their free tosses then to ice the win.
After scoring the first four, MSU saw EIU rattle off 11 straight points and finally pull ahead 18-6 with 11:41 left in the first half. But, a rally in the latter half of the period saw the Eagles climb back to within 38-34 at the break.
Cooper finished with 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds as the Eagles out-boarded the home team 35-31.
The Eagles return home to start another four-game homestand Thursday against Tennessee State, a team it has beaten once this year. Tip-off is at 7:35 p.m. ET.