GAME NOTES: Two of the top teams in the Ohio Valley Conference are set to clash as the Tennessee State Tigers head to McBrayer Arena to face the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
The Tigers are a half-game ahead of the Colonels in the East Division standings with a 6-1 OVC record as both suffered a setback to the first place Belmont Bruins. This will be the 50th encounter between these schools on the hardwood. EKU holds a 29-23 all-time series lead.
TSU had its seven-game winning streak snapped by the Bruins on Saturday as they fell, 78-66. The loss dropped to a 12-8 overall record, but the team has to be pleased with its standing considering star forward Robert Covington has been out since late December. In his absence, senior forward Kellen Thornton has stepped up his play and carries season averages of 14.8 points and 8.0 boards per tilt. The 6-foot-7 Illinois State transfer registered his sixth double- double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds at Belmont. Jordan Cyphers poured in a game-high 21 points while junior Patrick Miller was just two points shy of TSU's first triple double in at least ten years, as the guard from Chicago tallied career-highs in rebounds (10) and assists (12).
Miller currently leads the OVC in assists per game with 5.5 and his 1.7 steal per game average ranks him second. The guard is also second in the conference in minutes played with 691. TSU is netting 67.8 ppg, and it is fifth in the OVC in scoring defense at 65.2 points a game. The Tigers will need to bounce back from a poor defensive outing, as they allowed Belmont to connect on 11- of-25 from beyond the arc.
The Colonels bounced back from their loss to Belmont with a 73-62 victory over Jacksonville State on Saturday that lifted them to a 15-4 overall record. They now return home where they are a perfect 10-0 on the year. Coach Jeff Neubauer's squad has shown a balanced effort as it ranks third in the conference in both scoring offense (71.9 ppg) and scoring defense (64.3 ppg). Senior guard Mike DiNunno and junior guard Glenn Cosey are both big time contributors on the offensive end with 15.5 and 15.0 ppg, respectively. However, Cosey has not played in four games due to a broken finger and he is listed as doubtful for this contest.
Redshirt sophomore Corey Walden set a new career-high with 28 points at Jacksonville State and was chosen as the OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week on Monday. For the second time in as many games, Mike DiNunno scored a season- high 24 points. The Colonels limited the Gamecocks to 31 percent shooting from the field, marking the lowest shooting percentage by an opponent this season. Jacksonville State's 10 turnovers were the fewest by an Eastern Kentucky opponent this season. Before the game at JSU, EKU's previous four opponents averaged 19.3 turnovers per game.
Turnovers will be hard to come by with Miller running the show for TSU, but DiNunno has been the comeback player of the year in all of college basketball this season. The senior guard transferred to EKU from a sinking Northern Illinois program after having difficulty finding a program interested in his services. His impact on the Colonels' success is undeniable and they should be able to get past TSU as long as they contain Thornton.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Kentucky 73, Tennessee State 67
01/24 10:38:44 ET
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