Eastern Kentucky (0-0) vs. FIU (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: KSU Convocation Center (4,792) -- Kennesaw, Georgia. Television: None. Home Record: EKU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Away Record: EKU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Neutral Record: EKU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: EKU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Kentucky Colonels and the FIU Panthers will open the season on Friday night at the KSU Convocation Center as part of the 2013 Kennesaw State Men's Basketball Tournament.
The tournament will be played round-robin style, with EKU, FIU, Youngstown State and Kennesaw State all playing one another over the course of the weekend.
EKU is fresh off the winningest season in program history, as the team went 25-10 overall and 12-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference, although it failed to qualify for its first NCAA Tournament since 2007 after losing to Murray State in the OVC Tournament semifinals, 81-73. Nonetheless, the Colonels' outstanding season was rewarded with an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, where they earned a first-round win over Gardner-Webb before losing to Evansville in the second round.
FIU also enjoyed a solid run during the 2012-13 campaign in Richard Pitino's first an only season as head coach. Although the Panthers lost out on an automatic NCAA Tournament berth following a 65-63 loss to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Conference championship, they finished at 18-14 overall -- their best record since going 21-8 in 1997-98. The squad will enter its first season as a member of Conference USA with a new coach, as Anthony Evans takes over after six seasons at the helm for Norfolk State.
Each side has beaten the other twice in the all-time series, with EKU winning the last matchup in November of 2009, 81-67.
The Colonels were one of the OVC's top scoring teams last season at 73.9 points per game, and with the return of four starters, there's no reason to believe that they can't approach that number again. Glenn Cosey is back in the mix as the team's top scoring option after posting 15.2 points per game while draining 80 3-pointers at a 40.4 percent clip. Corey Walden (13.0 ppg) is a another threat in the backcourt, and he's nearly automatic from the free-throw line (.878). Eric Stutz (8.3 ppg) and Tarius Johnson (6.6 ppg) each started all 35 games. Orlando Williams (7.2 ppg) only appeared in 12 games, but the former Ohio University transfer should be a bigger factor in 2013-14.
FIU emerged as a surprise team last season thanks mostly to an imposing presence in the frontcourt. Tymell Murphy, a Second Team All-Sun Belt selection in 2012-13, contributed across the stat sheet with 14.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, all while shooting 57.3 percent from the floor. Jerome Frink also showed physicality down low for the Owls as a freshman, posting 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Things are much less certain at guard, especially with the loss of Malik Smith (14.1 ppg) and Cameron Bell (8.9 ppg). Marco Jimenez Porcher (5.1 ppg) is the most experienced backcourt member, and Dennis Mavin, formerly of Florida Atlantic, should see immediate action after sitting out 2012-13 per NCAA transfer rules.
FIU has a clear size advantage in this one, and Murphy should have no problem having his way against an undersized EKU frontcourt, but the guard-heavy Colonels are used to winning small, and their playmakers will fill it up en route to a season-opening win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Kentucky 72, FIU 68
11/08 10:43:50 ET