Eastern Kentucky (10-2) at West Virginia (6-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 30, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: WVU Coliseum (14,000) -- Morgantown, West Virginia. Television: ROOT Sports. Home Record: EKU 7-0, WVU 4-0. Away Record: EKU 3-2, WVU 0-2. Neutral Record: EKU 0-0, WVU 2-3. Conference Record: EKU 0-0, WVU 0-0. Series Record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The West Virginia Mountaineers have one more chance to tune up before their official Big 12 debut as they host the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at WVU Coliseum for a non-conference duel.
Jeff Neubauer's Colonels ended their two-game losing slide and improved their overall record to 10-2 with a hard-fought 73-70 victory over High Point on Dec. 21. EKU reeled off nine wins in a row to begin the season before falling to Illinois (66-53) and North Carolina A&T (78-67). It also begins its league schedule after the New Year when it returns home to face Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Illinois. The Colonels are adept on the offensive end as they are scoring 72.6 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting from the floor. Their competition is producing just 63.2 ppg with a .448 field goal percentage.
WVU is looking to make it three in a row after downing Oakland (76-71) and Radford (72-62) in its last two appearances. Bob Huggins has yet to see his squad be defeated in any of its four outings in Morgantown this season, but there is clearly still room for improvement on both ends of the court. The Mountaineers are scoring 69.8 ppg on 40.5 percent field goal shooting while holding their opposition to 67 ppg with makes on 42.7 percent of its attempts. WVU could really use the momentum earned with a victory over EKU, as it will begin its Big 12 slate in the new year against Oklahoma, who it lost to by seven points earlier in the season in a game that was not considered a conference match.
The Colonels are 1-0 versus WVU thanks to their 93-91 win in the inaugural meeting on Feb. 15, 1979.
Coming off its first two losses of the season, EKU was more aggressive than usual versus High Point which led to a season-best 22 makes from the charity stripe on 29 attempts. The Colonels held the Panthers to 38 percent shooting in the contest as they saw their record in away games rise to 3-2. Senior guard Mike DiNunno paced the team with a season-high 22 points, Corey Walden contributed 13 points and six rebounds, and Glenn Cosey finished with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Cosey is EKU's top offensive threat as he enters Sunday netting 16.1 ppg with a 47.1 percent accuracy rating from the field. DiNunno (14.4 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Walder (10.1 ppg) are both scoring in double-digits with regularity as well.
The Mountaineers used a 1-3-1 defensive set to overcome a second-half deficit and earn a 10-point decision over Radford its last time out. The Highlanders were able to drain just 3-of-18 attempts from beyond the arc as junior center Aaric Murray led WVU with a game-high 23 points to go along with eights rebounds and four assists. Gary Browne came off the bench to chip in nine points for the Mountaineers, who knocked down 45.8 percent of their field goal tries in the contest. Murray is evolving into the key player for WVU as he has tallied 35 points, 18 rebounds, six blocks, and eight assists in his last two outings. Juwan Staten is adding 10.5 ppg, while Browne and Terry Henderson are scoring just over eight per contest each.
The Colonels lack a defensive presence in the paint as they have blocked only 19 shots as team through 12 games. Murray should have little trouble staying hot against a team that struggles defending the rim. The Mountaineers may not be a favorite to win the Big 12 in their first tour of the league, but they will be able to knock off most of their opponents that visit WVU Coliseum when the homecourt advantage is factored into the mix.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: West Virginia 73, Eastern Kentucky 64
12/30 11:04:46 ET