FACTS & STATS: Paul Porter Arena (3,500) -- Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Television: None. CIT Record: Eastern Kentucky 0-0, Gardner-Webb 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The record-setting Eastern Kentucky Colonels look to make their mark in the postseason as they take on the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament at Paul Porter Arena.
The biggest surprise team of the season in the Ohio Valley Conference, Eastern Kentucky improved from a .500 finish in 2012-13 to finish with the second most wins in the conference and most victories in school history.
Coach Jeff Neubauer employed a very sound backcourt with Mike DiNunno (15.3 ppg, 4.4 apg) and Glenn Cosey (14.8 ppg, 3.2 apg) both thriving throughout the campaign. Eastern Kentucky's strength has been its potent offensive play. The Colonels are among the four best teams in the OVC in points (74.1 ppg), points allowed (65.3 ppg), assists (15.0) and field-goal percentage (.467). However, the Colonels lack frontcourt depth and are an awful rebounding team, ranking fourth-worst in the country on the glass (27.6 rpg).
The Colonels' NCAA Tournament hopes ended in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament with a loss to Murray State. Eric Stutz paced the team with 18 points in the setback. In the two OVC Tournament games, Stutz averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and one block per game. Corey Walden grabbed a season-high seven boards in the loss to Murray State. DiNunno's success has never been reached before as his 40 wins are the most by any EKU player in two seasons.
This will be the first meeting in history between EKU and Gardner-Webb on the hardwood.
Gardner-Webb was upset in the semifinals of the Big South Conference Tournament by Liberty, who went on to become the only NCAA Tournament squad with a losing record. The Runnin' Bulldogs had won their previous eight games and had a very impressive season overall with wins over DePaul, the College of Charleston and a one-point loss at Illinois.
GWU has a modest scoring attack at best, netting 65.9 ppg on 42.3 percent field goal shooting, but it benefits from playing outstanding defense, holding opposing teams to just 60.5 ppg while forcing more than 15 turnovers per contest. Tashan Newsome is the squad's leading scorer with 14.1 ppg, while Donta Harper is close behind with 12.9 ppg. Kevin Hartley is strong in the paint with 9.5 ppg on 48.1 percent from the field to go with 6.4 rpg and 1.7 spg.
The Colonels have a superstar at point guard and it is very unlikely DiNunno will allow his career to end easily. The Runnin' Bulldogs have lost just twice at home this season, however EKU's 8-7 mark in true road tests indicates that Gardner-Webb may be destined for a third. If Stutz continues his stellar play, the Colonels will be able to advance.