GAME NOTES: Searching for their first conference tournament win since 2007, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels try to make it happen against Southeast Missouri State, as the two squads meet up in the first round of the 49th annual Ohio Valley Conference Tournament tonight at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
The eighth seed for this year's event, Eastern Kentucky is second only to Murray State among current league members with a total of five tourney titles, the last coming in 2007, but since that narrow 63-62 defeat of Austin Peay the Colonels have failed to move part the first round and are now just two games over .500 in the event at 34-32.
The Colonels had some trouble with consistent play during the last five weeks of the regular season, winning a total of just four times in 10 attempts, but at least the squad is coming off an 86-74 victory in the regular-season finale against Eastern Illinois.
As for the fifth-seeded Redhawks, they actually finished one game under .500 overall on the campaign, but that's because the non-conference schedule was largely unfavorable. But it also didn't help that SEMO had to close the season on a three-game road trip that saw the squad bow to the likes of McNeese State, Jacksonville State and Austin Peay. The Redhawks are 7-9 in this event over the years and have a single championship from 2000 to show for their efforts.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, EKU owns a 23-17 edge over the Redhawks thanks in part to a 63-59 win in the only meeting during the regular season.
The winner of this clash will be back in action on Thursday in the quarterfinal round versus third-seeded Morehead State.
Carrying much of the weight on offense for the Colonels this season was Jaron Jones who was responsible for 16.7 ppg, doing quite a bit of damage at the free-throw line where he made almost twice as many shots (142-of-185) than anyone else on the team even attempted over the course of 31 games. Jaron Jones was also responsible for 4.4 rpg which was one of the top numbers for a program that was pulling down a mere 29.3 rpg and being beaten on the glass by almost four per game by the competition. Joshua Jones checked in with another 10.7 ppg as was for the most part the three-point shooting threat for EKU with his 53 conversions. As a group Eastern Kentucky, which averaged 66.4 ppg but also gave up 65.9 ppg, knocked down 60 more triples than the opposition, those foes shooting only 31.8 percent out on the perimeter.
Tyler Stone was one of three players to score in double figures this season for the Redhawks, his 14.3 ppg buoyed by his 52.2 percent accuracy from the floor and not so much his mere 63.0 percent shooting at the free-throw line. Stone was also first on the team in rebounding with 7.1 per game, although not that far behind was Leon Powell who pulled down 7.0 ppg and was third on the unit in scoring with 10.9 ppg. If not for getting into constant foul trouble Powell could have easily produced significantly more, but maybe being on the floor during tight games wasn't the best idea for him anyway, seeing as how he shot just 50.8 percent at the charity stripe. Marland Smith (12.3 ppg) performed much better at the line with 79.5 percent accuracy, but the team as a whole still checks in at only 63.4 percent.
If the game is close and the Redhawks have Stone and Powell on the floor they might be asking for trouble. However, with a more balanced offense SEMO should still be in good shape.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SE Missouri State 66, Eastern Kentucky 62
02/29 10:38:02 ET
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