RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team will host the top two teams in the Ohio Valley Conference this week beginning with Tennessee State on Thursday.
The Colonels (15-4, 5-1 OVC) sit in third place in the OVC East Division behind the two teams with the best records in the conference. TSU comes to Richmond 12-8 overall and 6-1 in league games. OVC leader Belmont enters the week 6-0 and will visit McBrayer Arena on Saturday.
Tip-off on Thursday is scheduled for 7 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 and Tigers share their last two opponents. Both lost at Belmont and both beat Jacksonville State.
Eastern Kentucky is ranked 18th in this week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25. That’s down one spot since last week. Eastern Kentucky moved from 92 to 71 in the latest NCAA RPI Rankings. Tennessee State has an RPI of 101.
Redshirt sophomore Corey Walden set a new career-high with 28 points at Jacksonville State and was chosen as the OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week on Monday. For the second time in as many games, senior Mike DiNunno scored a season-high 24 points at Jacksonville State. He also had 24 points at Belmont.
The Colonels limited Jacksonville State to 31 percent shooting from the field on Saturday. That’s the lowest shooting percentage by an Eastern opponent this season. Jacksonville State’s 10 turnovers were the fewest by an Eastern Kentucky opponent this season. Before the game at JSU, EKU’s previous four opponents averaged 19.3 turnovers per game.
After the first 12 games of the season, Tennessee State was 5-7 and had lost first team All-OVC forward Robert Covington to an injury. However, since then the Tigers are 7-1, including a seven-game winning streak that ended on Saturday at OVC leader Belmont.
Covington tore the meniscus in his right knee on Dec. 18. He was expected to miss four to six weeks. January 22 will mark five weeks since the injury occurred. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound senior was averaging 17 points and eight rebounds.
The trio of Patrick Miller, Kellen Thornton and Jordan Cyphers have picked up the slack during Covington’s absence. Miller, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, has scored 12 or more points in each of the last eight games and has three 20-plus point performances. In seven OVC games he’s averaging 18 points per game and shooting 49 percent from the field. Thornton, a 6-foot-7 245-pound senior forward, is averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds against OVC teams. He has shot 62 percent from the field and has four double-digit rebound performances in seven conference games. Cyphers, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, is averaging 13 points in OVC games and has a team-best 19 three-pointers.
Tennessee State lost to Belmont, 78-66, on Saturday. TSU held Belmont to 44 percent shooting and out-rebounded the Bruins by nine, but committed nine more turnovers. Belmont out-scored the Tigers 24-5 off turnovers. Cyphers had 23 points. Thornton finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Colonels lead the all-time series 27-24 and are 15-11 against the Tigers in Richmond. EKU has won five of the last seven meeting between the two teams.