Eastern Kentucky (16-5) at Tennessee-Martin (5-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 31, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Elam Center (5,000) -- Martin, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: EKU 11-1, UTM 4-5. Away Record: EKU 5-4, UTM 1-11. Neutral Record: EKU 0-0, UTM 0-0. Conference Record: EKU 6-2, UTM 2-7.Series Record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 25-15.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Kentucky Colonels look to continue their successful campaign as they trek to the Elam Center for an Ohio Valley Conference tilt against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks.
This will be the 41st meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood in a rivalry that began in 1992. The Colonels hold a 25-15 all-time series edge coming into this encounter, which is the only regular season matchup between the two this year.
The Colonels were bested by Belmont, 85-74, for the second time in four games on Saturday. The two losses to the Bruins are the only EKU has endured during the OVC season so far, which leaves it in a tie for second place with the West Division leading Murray State Racers. Coach Jeff Neubauer's squad allowed Belmont to shoot 67 percent from the field and 73 percent from 3-point range (11-of-15) in the second bout between the schools. Corey Walden poured in 24 points to pace Colonels, who hit 50 percent of their field goal tries, including 11-of-21 from distance. Mike DiNunno added 15 points and five assists in the losing effort. Although it appeared to be more of a run-and-gun squad against Belmont, EKU has shown balance all season long. It ranks second in the OVC in scoring offense (72.2 ppg) and just three slots back in scoring defense (65.4).
Walden was selected as the OVC Newcomer of the Week for the second time in a row thanks to his strong showing versus the conference's leader. The sophomore guard has scored 22 points or more in three consecutive games to raise his scoring average to 12.4 ppg. His has helped pick up the slack offensively while junior guard Glenn Cosey (15.0 ppg, 3.3 apg) continues to recover from a broken finger. Northern Illinois transfer Mike DiNunno has been one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season with team-best averages of 15.9 points and 4.2 assists per contest.
UTM is coming off a rare victory, as it clipped SIU Edwardsville, 65-62, on the road on Saturday to improve to still a disappointing 5-16 overall record which includes its 2-7 mark in OVC action. The Skyhawks' two wins in league play is tied for the second fewest and they are just 4-5 at home, with two of the victories coming over non-Division I opposition. Coach Jason James's team is being outscored by an average of 10.0 ppg, which gives it the worst average scoring margin in the OVC.
Despite UTM's rocky journey through the 2012-13 campaign, sophomore Myles Taylor is having a very productive season. The 6-foot-7 forward is the fifth leading scorer in the conference at 16.6 ppg and also ranks fourth in rebounding (7.8). Mike Liabo is chipping in 12.7 ppg, but the Skyhawks lack consistency down the line. UTM is the only team in the conference with a field goal percentage below the 40-percent mark (0.387), but it exceeded that clip versus SIUE by going 23-of-48 from the floor including a 5-of-9 conversion rate from beyond the arc.
Although UTM is coming off a much needed win and has the homecourt edge, its chances against EKU are slim. The Colonels have developed from a middle of the road program into one of the top teams in the OVC. If Belmont had not joined the league prior to this season, EKU would be atop the standings. It will get back on track in this one before facing a tougher challenge at SE Missouri State on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Kentucky 74, Tennessee-Martin 63
01/31 10:32:55 ET