The Colonels come into tonight’s game with the Tigers of Tennessee State needing a win to stay in the hunt for an OVC playoff spot. EKU is coming off a 83-65 loss to OVC front-runner Belmont at home Thursday night. Tennessee State enters the game with a three game winning streak winning at Morehead Thursday night 81-80 in double overtime.
Tonight’s game features a pair of first year head coaches in Brian Collins for TSU and AW Hamilton for Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels are 3-8 in league play while the Tigers are 5-6 in the OVC. Colonels sit one game out of the eight and final playoff spot.
Both teams are ranked nationally steals per game. EKU is ranked #1 while Tennessee State is 47th in that category. The Colonels are 8th in turnover margin, Tennessee State is 41st. Colonels are 11th is scoring offense averaging 84.1 points per game, 50th in assist to turnover ratio game at 1.0.
Colonels are led by All-American Candidate Nick Mayo who is 2nd in OVC in scoring at 23.3, 2nd in free throw shooting at 86.1% and 4th in the league at rebounding at 8.3. Tre King is 2nd in three point shooting percentage at 43.5%. Freshman Jomaru Brown and Junior Kelvin Robinson are in the top 12 in the league in steals.
The game started with DeJuanta Weaver scoring the first seven points for EKU. Jomaru Brown scored the Colonels next six points and for a while they were the only Colonels to score. Eastern Kentucky found themselves down by as much as nine points but a 14-3 run gave them a halftime lead of 32-31. Nick Mayo was held scoreless from the field, 0-7, but he did knock down a pair of free throw attempts. Brown led the way with 12 points at the break and Weaver had 7 points. Colonels shot 9-31 (29%) from the floor but were a perfect 12-12 at the free throw line.
The second half EKU was able to extend their lead to 11 points at 51-40 but the Tigers came roaring back getting within six points at 57-51. A steal by Kelvin Robinson with 2:13 left a pair of free throws from Robinson gave EKU an 11 point advantage but a Tripp Davis three pointer made the score 64-56 and the Tigers force a turnover on the following possession. Tigers miss a jumper and the Colonels are able to hold on for a much needed conference win 75-65. Colonels improve to 11-14 overall and 4-8 in league play. Tennessee State falls to 8-16 and 5-7.
For EKU Brown finished with a career high 30 points and grabbed 5 rebounds and a team high 4 assists. Tre King finishes with 12, Kelvin Robinson has 10 points to round out the trio of Colonels in double figures. Nick Mayo ends just shy of a double double, 9 points and 12 rebounds. Weaver ends with 7 points, Lachlan Anderson with 4 points and Cameron Carmichael with 3 points. Colonels shoot 12-24 in the second half from the field and end the game shooting 30-34 from the free throw line.
Next game is Thursday at Morehead State and then Murray State comes to Richmond.