Unbeaten EKU to battle unbeaten Illinois

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – An undefeated Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team will put its winning streak on the line in front of a national television audience at 10th ranked and unbeaten Illinois on Sunday.

Tip-off on ESPNU is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. The live radio broadcast of the game is available in the Richmond area on WCYO 100.7 FM, and can be heard worldwide on EKUSports.com. The game will also be available on WatchESPN. WatchESPN brings 24/7 live programming from ESPN’s networks to your computer, mobile phone, and tablet.

The Colonels (9-0) are off to their best start in 66 years and riding their longest winning streak since winning 10 in a row in 1964-65.

EKU is ranked 18th in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 while the Illini (11-0) are 10th in both the Associated Press and the USA Today Coaches Polls.

Eastern is tied with five other teams for the fifth longest active winning streak in the nation (through Wednesday’s games). Illinois has the longest winning streak in the country.

The match-up in Urbana-Champaign features two of the remaining 14 undefeated teams in Division I men’s basketball (through Wednesday’s games).

EKU head coach Jeff Neubauer has never faced Illinois, but he has faced off twice with Illini head man John Groce. The two split a pair of games when Groce was the head coach at Ohio, with each winning on their own home court.

The Colonels have been very opportunistic this season. Eastern has committed 69 fewer turnovers than its opponents and has out-scored its foes 224-112 off turnovers. The guard duo of Glenn Cosey and Mike DiNunno has led EKU. Cosey is coming off a game in which he scored a season-best 23 points to go along with six rebounds, five assists and three steals. The two have combined for 50 three-pointers this season.

The Fighting Illini won the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational in November by beating USC, Chaminade and Butler. On December 8, Illinois went on the road and beat Gonzaga, which was ranked 10th at the time. It was the first time UI defeated a non-conference, top-10 opponent on the road since 1986.

As a team, UI is averaging 78 points per game and allowing 64 per contest. The Illini have shot 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Illinois leads the nation with 10.4 three-pointers per game.

Brandon Paul, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, leads the team in scoring (19 ppg), rebounding (4.7 rpg) and assists (3.5 apg). The U.S. Basketball Writers Association selected Paul as its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week on Tuesday. He averaged 25 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in two games. Paul exploded for 35 points in the win at No. 10 Gonzaga, hitting 10-of-16 from the field, including 5-9 from three-point range, and 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Paul also scored 14 points in a 72-64 win over Western Carolina.

D.J. Richardson, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, averages 12 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Tracy Abrams, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard, contributes 11 points per contest.

This will be only the second meeting between the two programs. Illinois picked up a 79-56 win over the Colonels on Dec. 6, 1985 in Urbana-Champaign.

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