Tennessee-Martin (7-16) at Eastern Kentucky (14-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 30, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alumni Coliseum (6,500) -- Richmond, Kentucky. Television: None. Home Record: UTM 5-6, EKU 7-1. Away Record: UTM 2-10, EKU 6-5. Neutral Record: UTM 0-0, EKU 1-1. Conference Record: UTM 2-6, EKU 5-3. Series Record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 25-16.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Kentucky Colonels will tip off a four-game homestand at Alumni Coliseum on Thursday evening when they take on the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks in an Ohio Valley Conference bout.
UTM's season has been a struggle from the start, going just 7-16 overall, and things haven't been much better in OVC play, winning just two of eight matchups. The Skyhawks most recently dropped an 87-82 decision at home to SIU Edwardsville last Saturday and now head back out on the road, where they are just 2-10.
EKU has been red-hot with four straight victories prior to its road contest with Belmont last Saturday, which it lost, 84-81. Despite the setback, the Colonels have been impressive this season at 14-7 overall and 5-3 in the OVC and are especially strong on their home floor (7-1).
The Skyhawks won the most recent meeting between the teams, 72-65 on Jan. 31, 2013, although the Colonels still hold a 25-16 advantage in the all-time series.
The Skyhawks dug themselves a 13-point hole midway through the second half of their latest game and could not climb back in it on their way to a five-point setback. Although they shot a loft 52.5 percent from the field, they allowed SIUE to make a blistering 61.2 percent of its shots. Terence Smith paced all scorers with 22 points, draining 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Dee Oldham also had four 3-pointers en route to 16 points, Myles Taylor netted 15 and Mike Liabo came off the bench to score 12.
Scoring points is rarely the problem for UTM, as it pours in 73.4 ppg, but it hasn't been enough when paired with one of the nation's worst scoring defenses (80.4 ppg). Taylor leads the way with 15.2 ppg on 50.7 percent from the field to go with 6.7 rpg and nearly a block and a steal per tilt. Smith (14.8 ppg) has drained 45 3-pointers at a 44.6 percent clip, while Liabo (13.9 ppg) and Marshun Newell (11.0 ppg, 3.4 apg) are also in the midst of solid campaigns.
The Colonels saw their winning streak come to an end last weekend, getting behind Belmont by as many as 22 midway through the second half, and while they pieced together an furious run to make it a three-point game late, they could not complete the comeback. They drained 10 3-pointers on the evening but on 28 attempts (.357), with Glenn Cosey's 6-of-11 effort from beyond the arc for 24 points leading the way. Corey Walden scored 19 points and connected on all 12 of his free-throw tries, while Eric Stutz tallied a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
On the season, EKU only has a slightly better field-goal percentage (.479) than its opponents (.470), but it still scores 78.4 ppg while allowing just 69.6 ppg by ranking in the top-five nationally in turnover margin (+6.8) and steals per game (9.4). Cosey (19.1 ppg) has been deadly from beyond the arc at 71-of-172 (.413) and to go with a 98-of-112 (.875) showing at the free-throw line. Walden (13.2 ppg), Marcus Lewis (10.6 ppg) and Orlando Williams (10.0 ppg) also bring regular scoring contributions to the table.
With EKU's success at home matched up against a struggling UTM squad, the writing is on the wall in this one. Don't expect the Colonels to break much of a sweat on their way to victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Kentucky 86, Tennessee-Martin 70
01/30 10:35:54 ET