Eastern Kentucky (23-7) at Tennessee State (16-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gentry Center (10,500) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: EKU 15-1, TSU 10-2. Away Record: EKU 7-6, TSU 5-10. Neutral Record: EKU 0-0, TSU 1-1. Conference Record: EKU 12-3, TSU 10-5. Series Record: EKU leads, 28-24.
GAMES NOTES: With their seedings in the upcoming Ohio Valley Conference Tournament already determined the Eastern Kentucky Colonels and the Tennessee State Tigers will wrap up the regular season on Saturday at the Gentry Center.
One of just three teams in the conference with at least 20 wins overall this season, Eastern Kentucky will be the No. 3 seed in the league tournament giving it a bye in the first round. The Colonels have the second best record in the OVC as a whole (12-3) second to East Division champ Belmont. However the Colonels could earn a share of the regular season crown if Belmont loses to Jacksonville State on Saturday. West Division winner Murray State gets the No. 2 seed. The Colonels have won seven of their last eight games entering this battle.
Tennessee State is right behind Eastern Kentucky as it has the No. 4 seed in the OVC Tournament locked up. That also give the Tigers, who are 16-13 overall and 10-5 in league action, a bye in the first round. The Tigers are suffering in a two-game skid entering this finale after a dramatic 101-100 shootout loss to Morehead State on Thursday night.
Mike DiNunno scored 24 points and Corey Walden dropped in 22 as Eastern Kentucky earned a 76-67 win when these teams met earlier this season. The Colonels have won three of the last four contests between these squads and lead the all-time series, 28-24.
With its 69-54 victory over Tennessee Tech on Thursday, Eastern Kentucky set a school record with 23 wins. Walden had a team-high 18 points in the contest as the Colonels forced 22 turnovers to take a 27-7 edge in points off takeaways. Glenn Cosey added 14 points and Marcus Lewis chipped in 10 off the bench.
Eastern Kentucky's strength has been its potent offensive play. The Colonels are among the three best teams in the OVC in points (73.6 ppg), assists (15.1 pg) and field-goal percentage (.476). However, the Colonels lack frontcourt depth and are a terrible rebounding team, ranking third worst in the country on the glass (27.1 rpg). The backcourt trio of DiNunno (15.1 ppg, 4.3 apg), Cosey (15.1 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Walden (12.6 ppg) powers a guard-heavy rotation. DiNunno also leads the tram in assists. Eric Stutz (7.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg) is the most productive frontcourt performer.
Tennessee State had a chance to steal a win against Morehead State on Thursday but the Tigers, who trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half, were unable to complete the comeback. The Tigers hit 10 shots from beyond the arc in the contest and forced 21 turnovers, but allowed the Eagles to shoot 61.7 percent from the floor and 15-of-25 from 3-point range.
There is a lot of scoring depth on the roster for the Tigers. Robert Covington (17 ppg, 7.4 rpg) missed a chunk of the season but hasn't skipped a beat since his return. The 6-foot-9 forward has scored in double figures in all seven games since his return, including a 23-point effort against Morehead State. Kellen Thornton (15.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg) shoots 54.1 percent from the field as he teams with Covington to form an effective frontcourt tandem. In the backcourt, Patrick Miller (14.4 ppg, 5.3 apg) is the top option as well as the team's primary ball handler. Miller is also the OVC leader in assists, while Jordan Cyphers (12.1 ppg) provides additional scoring despite, shooting just 36.8 percent from the field.
If Tennessee State is going to win this game it needs to really lean on Covington and Thornton to take advantage of their edge in the frontcourt. If the Tigers can punish the Colonels in the paint they may just end the season on a high note.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee State 75, Eastern Kentucky 72
03/02 10:34:20 ET