SE Missouri State (17-15) vs. Eastern Kentucky (23-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 7, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Municipal Auditorium (8,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: OVC Digital Network. Home Record: SEMO 9-5, EKU 15-1. Away Record: SEMO 7-8, EKU 8-7. Neutral Record: SEMO 1-2, EKU 0-0. Conference Record: SEMO 8-8, EKU 12-4. Series Record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 24-20.
GAME NOTES: Already having established a new school record for wins in a season, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels try to add to it on Thursday night as they take on the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State in the quarterfinal round of the 50th annual Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
The Colonels, the third seed in the tournament, earned a bye through the first round of action which began on Wednesday. However, after opening the month of February with six consecutive victories, the team did hit a few rough spots in the final weeks with two defeats in three games. The most recent setback came last weekend versus Tennessee State on the road in overtime, 85-81.
SEMO, the sixth seed which is now 9-10 in this tourney, opened the event last night with a 78-68 triumph over Eastern Illinois. With the victory, the Redhawks have taken three straight outings.
The Colonels, who have a record of 34-33 in this event over the years and have claimed the title five times, won the most recent meeting with SEMO back in early February by a score of 81-72, which means the all-time series now stands at 24-20 in favor of EKU.
The winner of this game will be back in action on Friday night versus second- seeded Murray State for the right to compete in the title game on Saturday.
Eastern Illinois grabbed an early lead against the Redhawks last night, but SEMO then knocked down a sizzling 63.0 percent from the floor in the first half in order to assume control and eventually claim the double-digit win. Tyler Stone was huge off the bench for the Redhawks, converting all but one of his 12 field goal attempts as he finished with a game-high 24 points, followed by Corey Wilford and Marland Smith with 14 points apiece. Spreading the ball around was Lucas Nutt with his 12 assists, without a single turnover.
In the last four games, the Redhawks have had a different leading scorer each time, but for the most part the team leans more heavily on Stone (15.6 ppg) and Wilford (14.7 ppg), the former working his magic in the paint where he is clearing 7.8 rpg and has made 44 blocks, the latter converting 82-of-186 behind the 3-point line for the program. Not to be overlooked is Nino Johnson with his 10.9 ppg and 8.9 rpg, not to mention 82 rejections.
Named to the All-OVC First Team this season, Mike DiNunno has been averaging close to 36 minutes per game for the Colonels and has used that time on the hardwood to not only lead the program in scoring with 15.4 ppg, but also pace the group with 130 assists and 62 steals as he puts forth a full effort at both ends of the floor. Glenn Cosey, a recipient of some of those assists for sure, is responsible for 15.2 ppg and 81 dishes himself, the duo combining to make good on 148 3-point baskets, which is more than half the unit's total through 31 games. Corey Walden pitches in with another 12.6 ppg and is one of the better rebounders with 3.4 per contest, but the team overall is being beaten on the glass by close to six per contest.
Having to make the quick turn-around for this next round of the tournament will not be easy for the Redhawks, especially since the team is going up against some of the best players in the conference.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Kentucky 74, SE Missouri State 66
03/07 10:31:14 ET