EKU missed two chances at game winners in regulation, and hit just 1-9 shots in the overtime period as TSU closed out their regular season with a win at home. The teams tied the series, and enter the OVC Tournament with single-byes.
|FG (%)||24-68 (35.3%)||27-51 (52.9%)|
|3FG (%)||13-42 (31.0%)||6-15 (40.0%)|
|FT (%)||20-20 (100%)||25-32 (78.1%)|
|REB (O/D)||29 (12/17)||42 (11/31)|
|POINTS:||Mike DiNunno - 24||Kellen Thorton - 25|
|REBOUNDS:||Orlando Williams - 7||Robert Covington - 16|
|ASSISTS:||Mike DiNunno - 6||Patrick Miller - 11|
The OVC regular season ended with a bang in Nashville. Tennessee State erased an 8-point halftime deficit to force overtime, and hung on in the extra period for a 85-81 win. Eastern Kentucky had two chances to win the game in the final ten seconds, but a Mike DiNunno three drew front iron, and a buzzer-beating runner by Glenn Cosey drew the back of the rim, forcing overtime.
In the extra period, Eastern Kentucky shot just 1-9 from the field, and Tennessee State hit 10-14 free throws to seal the win. The Colonels would shoot even better from the charity stripe, going a perfect 20-20 for the game, but struggled to score after a solid first half gave the Colonels an 8-point advantage.
EKU’s defense also had a dramatic change between the first two halves. After holding TSU to 40% shooting, and forcing 11 turnovers in the first half to gain the lead, the Colonels allowed the Tigers to shoot 71% in the second half. Tennessee State also went the final three minutes of regulation and the entire overtime period without a single turnover.
Senior Kellen Thorton provided one of his best scoring performances on senior night, scoring 25 points on 9-13 shooting from the floor. Patrick Miller added 19 points, and dished out 11 assists, but also turned the ball over eight times on the night. Robert Covington was a force on the boards for the Tigers, pulling down 16 rebounds in the win.
DiNunno led the Colonels with 24 points, shooting 5-14 from three point range alone. Cosey got off to a slow start, scoring just a single point in the first half, but finished with 16 points.
What’s Being Said
Yep, I said it. Going to bet I’m not the only one thinking it:
Dear Mike DiNunno: You don’t get bonus points for degree of difficulty. Stop shooting from 27+ feet.
— Catlin Bogard (@OVCBall) March 3, 2013
Consistency is the hard part for every team this season:
@ovcball we just cant play consistent any longer. We turned the engine off after we beat Belmont
— 28th & Jefferson (@28andJefferson) March 3, 2013
So the big question here, and part of the reason why I went to Nashville tonight, is this: Can these two teams win the OVC Tournament.
My answer: Yes. But…
Both teams are capable, but can they put together 40 minutes on back-to-back-to-back nights? Both teams made a stream of mental errors that make me wonder about winning three in a row in high pressure situations. There’s no question there’s enough talent on both rosters to make a run and win the OVC Tournament. But talent alone doesn’t often win tournaments.
Tennessee State’s ball handling tonight wasn’t very good early. There were lazy passes, and sloppy dribbling that lead to quite a few steals. It got better late, but 19 turnovers is simply too many. Much of the credit goes to the Colonels defense, but especially early TSU was beating themselves as much as anything.
Eastern Kentucky got beat in the paint and on the boards, which has been a season-long story. Their defense is good, but doesn’t match up particularly well against teams with strong frontcourts. They’re able to get enough pressure on the ball handler to help with that concern, but they really had no answer once the ball was put in Thorton or Covington’s hands tonight.
The matchups do work in both team’s favors, assuming they advance past the quarterfinals. Tennessee State has proven they can beat Belmont, and EKU the same with a slumping Murray State. But both have had letdowns this year too, so getting past the first game isn’t