Just over week ago, Belmont held off a furious rally from Eastern Kentucky to beat the Colonels in Nashville. Tonight, Eastern Kentucky looks not only of their revenge, but a chance to stay in the race for the East Division lead.
Make no mistake, the second of those is much more important than the first.
With a Belmont win tonight, the Bruins would have a two game lead over the Colonels, plus hold the tiebreaker, meaning Belmont must lose three games down the stretch for the Colonels to even have a chance at the double-bye in March’s Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
An Eastern Kentucky win, and the two teams would be tied for first place in the division.
The Bruins got quite a scare on Thursday, trailing for most of the game at Morehead State before a second half run kept the Bruins undefeated in conference play. Their one major weakness we’ve seen this season, rebounding, reared it’s head once again as Belmont was outrebounded by 15.
If the Bruins are weak on the boards, I’m not sure what adjective would describe the Colonels rebounding. Atrocious? Dismal? Depresssing? Take your pick, because not only is Eastern Kentucky last in the OVC in rebounding, they’re in the bottom ten nationwide. And their numbers have actually gotten worse in conference play.
Of course, when you’re shooting 48% from the floor in conference play, you don’t generally need a lot of rebounds. The problem for the Colonels? Belmont shoots 52%.
Since Glenn Cosey went down to injury, EKU guard Mike DiNunno has stepped up and played as an all-OVC caliber guard. Sophomore guard Corey Walden has played the full 40 minutes in the past two games, averaging 25 points in wins over Jacksonville State and Tennessee State. Right now, Eastern Kentucky may have the hottest backcourt in the league, although Ian Clark may argue with that claim.
While Eastern favors the three-point shot, they’re hitting just 34% behind the arc in their seven OVC games, partially the impact of missing Cosey. But no team shoots a higher percentage inside the arc, but that has as much to do with the guards attacking the basket as it does with the Colonels frontcourt.
Belmont has rolled through OVC play, but in the past few games, including their win over Eastern Kentucky nine days ago, they’ve allowed fairly large runs by their opponents at some point throughout the game. Before Thursday night at Morehead State, those runs came after Belmont pulled out to a big lead.
Clark leads the OVC in scoring in conference games, and hasn’t been held under 20 points since the Bruins OVC opener against Jacksonville State. The senior guard is still shooting an amazing 66% from the field in conference play, leading all guards by a wide margin. The sharpshooter has a lot of help around him, on reason the Bruins have put up over 82 points a game against the conference.
Injury Update: EKU G Glenn Cosey: Doubtful