Eastern Kentucky (25-9) at Evansville (19-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 23, 1:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Physical Activities Center (2,278) -- Evansville, Indiana. Television: None. CIT Record: Eastern Kentucky 1-0, Evansville 1-1. Series Record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 10-4.
GAME NOTES: The Evansville Purple Aces shoot for a 20-win season for the first time since 1998-99, as they take on the Eastern Kentucky Colonels in the second round of the CIT at the Physical Activities Center on Saturday afternoon.
Evansville, which lost to Indiana State during the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, 51-50, back on March 8, returned to the hardwood on Tuesday where it topped Tennessee State in an 84-72 final, which means the Purple Aces have won five of their last six games overall.
As for the Colonels, they have the second-most wins of any team still in the tournament with their 25-9 mark, trailing only Weber State (27-6) which is set to take on Air Force later on Saturday. EKU began this event earlier in the week with a 69-62 victory against Gardner-Webb, marking the first national postseason tournament win for the program in close to seven decades. The last such win took place against Southern Illinois in the third-place game of the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) Tournament back in 1945.
These two teams have faced each other a total of 14 times previously, with the Colonels claiming victory in 10 matchups, although the last encounter was won by Evansville, 95-80, way back in 1957. The winner of this meeting will head to the quarterfinals against an opponent to be determined.
The location of the contest has been moved to the Physical Activities Center at the University of Southern Indiana because the Ford Center, Evansville's home, is hosting ice hockey this weekend.
Corey Walden was a perfect 4-of-4 from 3-point distance as he finished with a team-best 26 points, to go along with five steals, in the win over Gardner- Webb in the first round of this tournament earlier in the week. Also reaching double figures were Glenn Cosey and Eric Stutz with 22 and 10 points, respectively, although the team did have some serious trouble keeping control of the ball with their 20 turnovers.
Although he has appeared in only 28 games this season, Cosey is still listed as the leading scorer for Eastern Kentucky with his 15.1 ppg, while Mike DiNunno checks in at 14.8 ppg and combines with Cosey to account for 163 made 3-pointers, which is almost as many as the team's opponents have logged altogether (179). It also doesn't hurt that DiNunno is a solid passer with 146 assists.
Except for having the score tied four times, the Purple Aces were never truly challenged by Tennessee State at the Ford Center on Tuesday night, as the hosts led by as many as 20 points before settling in with the 12-point victory. Colt Ryan was responsible for a game-high 22 points, adding five rebounds and five assists, while Ned Cox converted 4-of-6 shots behind the 3- point line as he finished with 16 points and four dishes of his own for a squad that was 9-of-18 out on the perimeter.
Not only is Ryan the top scorer for Evansville on the season with 19.6 ppg, shooting a sensational 89.5 percent at the free-throw line, he is also first in assists with 126, which is a rare combination. Cox accounts for another 11.0 ppg, which means the duo is responsible for a huge chunk of the unit's 68.5 ppg on the campaign.
Even though this game isn't on the Evansville campus, the hometown crowd will still be there in the small venue to cheer on the Purple Aces to a milestone win this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Evansville 78, Eastern Kentucky 71
03/23 10:38:03 ET