Eastern Kentucky Colonels (25-9) at Evansville Aces (19-14)
CollegeInsider.com Tournament Second Round
Game Time: 12:30 p.m Saturday
Location: Physical Activities Center
Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM, watchcollegeinsider.com
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Spread: UE opened -4.5 at OddsShark.com
UE’s Probable Starters: G Troy Taylor, G Ned Cox, F Colt Ryan, F Adam Wing, C Egidijus Mockevicius
Tennessee State’s Probable Starters: G Mike DiNunno, G Glenn Cosey, G Corey Walden, G Tarius Johnson, F Eric Stutz
Series History: EKU leads the series 10-4, but the programs haven’t met since 1957, when the Aces picked up a 95-80 victory in Evansville.
March 22: As Ryan closes in on record, Humes recalls how he got it
March 21: Castle grad Stutz returning home to play Aces
March 20: UE will hosts again but play at USI
March 19: Aces advance in CIT with win over Tennessee State
—UE will play for its 20th win — the Aces haven’t reached that mark since 1999 — and its second postseason win on Saturday. The program hasn’t won two postseason games in the same season since 1971. That was in the Aces’ pre-Division I days.
—Senior Colt Ryan is 33 points from tying Larry Humes’ program record 2,236 points. The last time he played at the PAC, he scored 22 points in a game where the Aces shot 50 percent.
—EKU’s 69th ratings percentage index is the best in the CIT field. The Colonels finished with the second-best record in the Ohio Valley Conference and are making their first postseason appearance since playing in the 2010 College Basketball Invitational.
—And UE thought it didn’t take control of the ball against Tennessee State. After an 11-day layoff, EKU turned it over 20 times — a season high — but still won at Gardner-Webb to advance to the CIT’s second round. It was the program’s first national postseason tournament win in 68 years.
—The Colonels do average 5.9 fewer turnovers per game than opponents, setting up an interesting matchup against an Aces team that’s 18th in Division I in turnovers per game.
—UE has shot 48 percent from 3-point range over its last five games and held opponents to 26 percent.
—Eric Stutz, a Castle High School graduate, has played his best basketball down the stretch, averaging 16.7 points and seven rebounds in EKU’s three postseason games. He’s shot 70.8 percent from the field in those contests.
UE coach Marty Simmons scouts EKU: “They can obviously shoot the 3. I’m sure you’ve looked at their stats. Their outstanding 3-point shooters. (Mike) DiNunno can really penetrate. He can shoot the 3 from deep. He does it in transition. He does it in the half court. (Glenn) Cosey and (Corey) Walden are really, in our opinion, similar. They can put it on the floor. They’re really athletic. They can shoot the 3.”
Simmons on the Colonels’ playing style: “They’re as good of an offensive team as we’ve played against, so being consistent and paying attention – they’re really good at back cutting. And then they play pressure defense. They get up in you, so your ability to take care of the ball, which we didn’t do a very good job of the other night (against Tennessee State), is important.”
EKU coach Jeff Neubaurer on the Colonels’ system: “I worked for (former West Virginia and current Michigan coach) John Beilein for eight years, and so part of our system is built around what I learned offensively from him. However, we’ve also got some really talented guards who can play off ball screens. We do allow our guards to play off ball screens quite a bit, and that’s what at times ignites our offense.”
Simmons on EKU sophomore Eric Stutz, a Newburgh native: “He was a heck of a high school player – played with my son, Blake, out at Castle. He was a warrior, man. He’s got great hands, good touch for a guy of his size, and he’s gotten better in college. He seems to be playing his best basketball right now. He’s long-armed. He’s an athletic guy who runs well – great hands, great touch – passes the ball well. He played the four or five for them, but he stretches you out and is a very difficult matchup.
Neubaurer on preparing for the Aces’ motion on short notice: ”Not only a motion, but Evansville right now is running the best pure motion offense that I’ve seen in college basketball in years. They really are screening well. Their screeners are physical. Their cutters really move without the ball. They have shooters. They make great decisions. They’re not just running motion. They’re doing it at an incredibly efficient rate, and it’s amazing the job Marty’s done with the program.”
Outlook: Those in Evansville seem to generally turn their noses up at OVC competition. No, it’s no Missouri Valley Conference, but EKU is no slouch, either. The Colonels figured to be one of the first few teams left out of the NIT, just like UE, and a 25-9 record speaks for itself. The spread leans in the Aces’ favor, but this seems like a 50/50 game.