RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team shot 56 percent from the field and 44 from three-point range in a 76-67 victory over Tennessee State University on Thursday. The Tigers came into the game sitting in second place in the Ohio Valley Conference East Division with the Colonels a half-game behind.
EKU (16-4, 6-1 OVC) is now in second place in the East, one game behind Belmont (16-4, 7-0 OVC). The undefeated Bruins visit McBrayer Arena on Saturday.
The Colonels scorched the nets to the tune of 67 percent shooting in the first half, including hitting 6-of-10 attempts from three-point range. An 8-1 run, book-ended by treys from Corey Walden and Mike DiNunno, turned an 8-point lead into a 15-point advantage, 33-18, with 2:39 remaining in the opening period. Eastern took a 15-point lead, 39-24, into the locker room at the break.
The Tigers (12-9, 6-2 OVC) began the second half by scoring the first 11 points to get within six. A three-pointer by Jordan Cyphers with 13 minutes left in the game cut the Colonel lead to four, 47-43. However, EKU answered with a 12-3 run to regain control. DiNunno and Timmy Knipp each hit three-pointers. A dunk by Marcus Lewis capped the spurt and had the home team on top by 13, 59-46, with 7:45 showing on the clock.
Six straight free throws by DiNunno, including four as a result of two technical fouls on Tennessee State, gave Eastern its largest lead of 17 points, 67-50, with 5:28 to play. The Tigers never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
DiNunno scored a game-best 24 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. He made 4-of-10 from behind the arc on his way to a third straight 24-point performance. The senior also had seven assists.
Walden added 22 points, five rebounds and three assists. Eric Stutz contributed 10 points and eight rebounds.
Patrick Miller had 20 points to lead the Tigers. Cyphers finished with 15. M.J. Rhett scored five and grabbed 10 rebounds. TSU made just 30 percent of its first half shots and 37 percent for the game. Tennessee State grabbed 16 offensive boards and out-rebounded EKU by six, but was out-scored in the paint by 14.
The Colonels and Bruins will meet for the second time in nine days on Saturday. Tip-off at McBrayer Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.
EKU’s 16 wins matches the total from last season’s 16-16 squad.
Eastern Kentucky is ranked 18th in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25.
Eric Stutz’s eight rebounds tied for the most by a Colonel this season.
Mike DiNunno dished out seven assists for the third time this year.
In its previous four home games, Eastern Kentucky had made only 30.6 percent of its 3-point attempts. On Thursday the Colonels made 44 percent.
The Colonels entered the game ranked 13th in the nation in free throw shooting (75.2 percent). EKU made 82 percent tonight.
Eastern has out-scored its seven OVC opponents by 71 points in the first half. The Colonels have been out-scored by 22 in the second half.
Tennessee State entered the game having shot 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range against OVC opponents. On Thursday TSU made 37 percent of its shots from the field and 31 percent from deep.
TSU’s Patrick Miller entered the game leading the conference in assists (5.5 apg) and steals (1.7 spg). On Thursday Miller finished with three assists, one steal and seven turnovers.
TSU’s Kellen Thornton had averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds against OVC teams this season, but finished with six points and five rebounds tonight.
The Colonels now lead the all-time series 28-24 and are 16-11 in games played in Richmond.