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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 8, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Municipal Auditorium (8,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: EKU 15-1, MSU 10-4. Away Record: EKU 8-7, MSU 8-4. Neutral Record: EKU 1-0, MSU 2-1. Conference Record: EKU 12-4, MSU 10-6. Series Record: Murray State leads, 94-60.
GAME NOTES: With a date in the title game on the line, the Murray State Racers and the Eastern Kentucky Colonels get together in the semifinals of the 50th annual Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Friday night at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
By virtue of winning the West Division title in the OVC this season with a record of 10-6, the Racers earned themselves the second seed in this event and a bye up until now. The defending tournament champs, thanks to a narrow 54-52 triumph over Tennessee State last season, the Racers have won this event a staggering 15 times and have a record of 61-32.
As for the Colonels, the second-most successful program in this tournament among the current members of the OVC with a total of five championship, they began their quest for another title on Thursday with an 84-69 win over Southeast Missouri State. With the victory EKU, the third seed this year, is now 35-33 all-time in the event.
The most recent meeting between these teams took place the second week of January with Eastern Kentucky taking out the Racers in a 77-65 final, which means the all-time series now favors MSU by a count of 94-60.
The stakes are much higher this time around however, with the survivor going up against the winner of the Tennessee State/Belmont matchup in the championship round on Saturday, the reward in that game being an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
EKU shot just 33.3 percent from the floor in the first half, including 4-of-15 beyond the arc, but thanks to a 15-of-19 showing at the free-throw line the team was able to move out to an eight-point lead at the break and then cruise to the double-digit victory. In all, the Colonels shot 37-of-45 at the charity stripe, compared to 16-of-18 for the Redhawks. Eric Stutz manned the interior and came up with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while reserve Orlando Williams checked in with 14 points and seven boards in just 18 minutes of action. Corey Walden and Mike DiNunno chipped in with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
DiNunno, who also handed out five assists on Thursday, is the team leader in both scoring (15.3 ppg) and passing (135 assists) over 32 contests. Along with Glenn Cosey (14.9 ppg) and Walden (12.6 ppg), the trio has knocked down 185 3- pointers, compared to just 168 triples for all of the team's opponents combined this season.
Recognized as one of the most dynamic scorers in the country yet again this season, Isaiah Canaan is netting 21.6 ppg for the Racers. Averaging more than 36 minutes per contest, Canaan has not only made goof on 89-of-234 shots behind the 3-point line in 2012-13, he is also first on the unit with 117 assists which means he is just as comfortable shooting the ball as he is seeing his teammates succeed. While Canaan directs traffic out on the perimeter much of the time, Ed Daniel steps into the paint where he is averaging a double-double with 13.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest, although his mere 61.9 percent accuracy at the free-throw line can be an issue at times. Stacy Wilson checks in with another 13.0 ppg as he continues to struggle with his shooting at only 39.5 percent.
As if being in the postseason were not incentive enough to play well, the Racers also have revenge as a motivating factor after losing to EKU during the regular season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 78, Eastern Kentucky 66
03/08 10:33:31 ET