EKU-Morehead showdown puts Colonels' defense in spotlight

mmaloney@herald-leader.comJanuary 11, 2013 

  • Morehead State at Eastern Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    TV: Live, free broadcast on EKUsports.com or OVCDigitalNetwork.com

    Radio: WCYO-FM 100.7

    Records: Morehead State 8-9 (2-1 OVC), Eastern Kentucky 13-3 (3-0)

    Series: Eastern Kentucky leads 104-74

    Last meeting: Morehead State won 58-45 on Feb. 11, 2012, at Richmond

Call it a case for the D.

Eastern Kentucky (13-3) is winning with defense.

"Defensively, we really have played very aggressively this year," Coach Jeff Neubauer said. "That's the biggest difference between our team and our previous seven teams, is our man-to-man defensive style is significantly different in that we have been fortunate to force some turnovers."

The Colonels, picked fifth in the East in the Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball pre-season poll, take a 3-0 league mark into Saturday's game against archrival Morehead State (8-9, 2-1). Tip-off in McBrayer Arena is set for 7 p.m.

EKU, 9-0 at home, already has as many road victories (four) as it had last season (16-16 overall, 7-9 OVC, 4-11 road).

"Defense, defense, defense," 5-foot-11 guard Mike DiNunno said in explaining the Colonels' success. "Our defense ... gives us easy offensive opportunities. It dictates the tempo of the game. And this team is just a lot more resilient than last year."

The Colonels have 187 turnovers this season, to their foes' 288.

No. 18 in CollegeInsider.com's mid-major rankings, EKU is coming off its biggest win of the season — 77-65 Wednesday at (mid-major No. 8) Murray State.

EKU held the Racers scoreless for the first six minutes and later went on a 24-0 run.

DiNunno, the lone senior on the team, is focused on Morehead, though.

"If we don't come out ready to play, and execute and defend and value the ball and do all the things that we've been doing, Morehead can beat us," he said. "They're a very good team. They're very well coached. They're going to be playing extremely hard."

The Colonels won Wednesday without leading scorer Glenn Cosey (15.0 points per game), who has a broken finger. Neubauer declined comment on the 6-foot junior's status for Saturday.

DiNunno is second on the team at 14.6 ppg, and leads in three-point makes (46) and percentage (43.4).

"He's played really well at both ends of the court," Neubauer said. "Defense starts with him because he does apply good pressure to the ball."

Corey Walden, a 6-2 sophomore, also is averaging double digits (10.8).

"He's had some really explosive games," Neubauer said. "He's our best defender as well. He takes charges. Just a really good defender who's just all over the place."

Tarius Johnson, a 6-5 junior averaging 6.8 points, scored a career-high 17 points at Murray.

Milton Chavis leads Morehead scorers with 12.4 a game. Angelo Warner adds 9.3.

"Be ready for a good game. It's not going to be a one-sided game on either end by any means," DiNunno said. "Any time we play Morehead we always have a good crowd and the energy's always up."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229 Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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