RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) - There will be no sneaking up on opponents
this season for Eastern Kentucky.
The Colonels are projected to finish second in the Ohio Valley
Conference behind defending champion Austin Peay, a year after
playing well enough to morph from underdog to top dog.
Eastern Kentucky returns four of their top five scorers and
eight lettermen from the squad that finished 21-12 overall and 13-7
to tie for second in the OVC after being picked to finish eighth in
The Colonels went on to win the league tournament, earning its
second berth into the NCAA Tournament in three years.
Success hasn't changed the Colonels' attitude according to
junior guard Mike Rose, who is the team's leading returning scorer
with 15.1 points per game last season.
"Even though we have a little more respect, we still feel like
we have to prove stuff to ourselves and everyone else," Rose said.
"We can't play at a lower level and start losing games.
"We want to get back to that point where we were before again.
We know it's going to be tough just because we got a bulls-eye on
our back now."
Last season the Colonels led the OVC in field goal percentage
(46.2 percent), ranked second in steals (8.0 per game) and assists
(14.4 per game), and were third in 3-point field goal percentage
Rose was sixth in the league in scoring and sharp-shooting
sophomore Adam Leonard was 12th after averaging 12.5 ppg. Leonard,
who was named the OVC co-freshman of the year, made a league-high
and tied a school record with 104 3-pointers.
Under third-year head coach Jeff Neubauer, having plenty of good
shooters will always be paramount to run his offense predicated on
spacing and cutting.
"We really do try to spread the floor, try to get bigger
defenders to guard smaller guys away from the hoop," Neubauer
said. "Our goal this year is to shoot the ball well from five
positions. That will help us overcome bigger, stronger teams."
Eastern Kentucky's tallest player is 6-8 Darnell Dialls, who
averaged 8.1 ppg and was second on the team with 4.1 rpg last
Dialls, one of two seniors along with 6-7 Jamaal Douglas, will
both be counted on to help replace the production of forward
Michael Brock, who led the team with 5.3 rebounds per game and was
the Colonels' best defender.
Harrison Brown, Robin Mestdagh, Justin Stommes and Josh Daniel
are still competing to fill the role that guard Julian Mascoll had
last season as Leonard's backcourt mate.
As a senior, Mascoll started every game and led the team with
4.8 assists per game and was third in points with 11.1 per game.
Scoring shouldn't be a problem for the Colonels, who ended last
year winning 11 of their last 13 games.
It's the team's ability to stop people that Neubauer is
Although Eastern Kentucky ranked second in the OVC in scoring
defense by holding teams to 63.3 ppg, it was seventh in field goal
percentage defense (45.6 percent) and eighth in 3-point field goal
percentage defense (35.8 percent).
"Last year we were good defensively, that's what allowed us to
hang around games," Neubauer said. "If we're going to be any good
this year, we've got to be a very good man-to-man defensive team."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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