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Colonels begin OVC Championship quest Thursday night

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team’s quest for the program’s sixth Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship begins on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s Southeast Missouri/Eastern Illinois game.

Eastern’s game is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET. 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. A FREE live video broadcast of the contest is available on OVCDigitalNetwork.com.

The Colonels (23-8, 12-4 OVC) enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed and received a first round bye. No. 6 seed Southeast Missouri and No. 7 seed Eastern Illinois will play tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

The winner of Thursday’s game will face No. 2 seed Murray State in the semifinals at 9 p.m. ET on Friday. Eastern Kentucky finished with the second best record in the conference, but the Racers received the No. 2 seed as a result of finishing first in the West Division.

The OVC title game will be Saturday at 7 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN2. A delayed broadcast of Friday’s semifinal game will air on ESPNU at 1:30 a.m.

With their win over Tennessee Tech last week, the Colonels set a new school record for wins in a season with 23. The previous record of 22 was set in 2004-05. On Tuesday, Mike DiNunno was named first team All-OVC. Glenn Cosey and Corey Walden were selected to the OVC All-Newcomer team.

Eastern Kentucky has won five tournament titles (1950, 1955, 1979, 2005, 2007) and has finished as the runner-up seven times (1951, 1953, 1954, 1965, 1987, 1990, 1992). EKU has qualified for 37 of the 49 tournaments, including 11 in a row, and has an overall tournament record of 34-32. Eastern is one of only two teams to qualify for each of the last 11 OVC Tournaments.

EKU is tied with Middle Tennessee for the third most tournament championships (5). The Colonels have the third most tournament game victories (34). Eastern is 3-3 all-time as the No. 3 seed. The last time the Colonels were the No. 3 seed was in 1987 when they advanced to the finals.

Southeast Missouri won five of its last seven regular season games and enters the tournament 16-15 on the season. The Redhawks finished 8-8 in conference play. The SEMO offense has put up 82, 84, 96 and 108 points in four of its last five regular season games. Southeast broke the OVC record with 20 three-pointers on its way to scoring 108 points at Austin Peay.

Tyler Stone, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, leads the team in scoring (15.3 ppg) and is second in rebounding (7.8 rpg). Fellow 6-foot-8 forward Nino Johnson is third in scoring (11 ppg) and is second in the OVC in rebounding (9.1 rpg). Corey Wilford, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, contributes 14.8 points per contest.

As a team, Southeast leads the OVC in field goal percentage defense (.401) and 3-point field goal percentage (.407). The Redhawks are second in scoring offense (74.2 ppg) and third in field goal percentage (.470).

Eastern Illinois lost only one of its final five regular season games, and that was to OVC champ Belmont. The Panthers enter the tournament 11-20 overall and finished 6-10 in the league. EIU suffered through a 12-game losing streak in the middle of the season, including a 0-6 start in the OVC. However, after ending the losing skid the Panthers finished the regular season 8-4.

Morris Woods, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, leads the team in scoring (10.9 ppg). Sherman Blanford, a 6-foot-6 forward, contributes 10.5 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game.

As a team, Eastern Illinois is last in the conference in scoring (60.2 ppg) but second in scoring defense (63.6 ppg). EIU allows opponents to shoot 39 percent from 3-point range, the highest in the OVC.

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