MOREHEAD — They call Kenneth Faried "Special K." Maybe the nickname should be "The Double Deuce."
As the nation's second most prolific producer of double-doubles (entering this week), the bouncy 6-foot-8 Morehead State junior expects to put up double figures in points and rebounds every game.
Yet what he did in Morehead's 77-64 pasting of archrival Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday night in Ellis T. Johnson Arena was ridiculous even for him.
When they stopped play for the first "media timeout" with 15:14 left in the first half, Faried had seven points and nine rebounds.
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In my 45 years, I've watched a truly distressing amount of college basketball. I've never seen a player that close to a double-double before the first TV timeout.
"That must certainly be a record," EKU Coach Jeff Neubauer said afterward with a shake of his head.
Faried said Morehead Coach Donnie Tyndall had challenged him to set a positive tone for his teammates after some slow starts from the big man led to sluggish MSU performances.
Sparked by Faried's ferocious beginning, Morehead put a beat down on EKU. MSU led by double digits from the 5:50 mark of the first half until the game's end. The Eagles were up 21 at the intermission and by as much as 26 in the second half.
The victory — Morehead's sixth in its past seven games against Eastern Kentucky — clinched the second seed in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament for the Eagles (19-8, 13-3). It left Eastern (18-10, 10-6) with more work to do to lock up the third seed for the same event.
Faried finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds, his 20th double-double this season.
Yet after such a dramatic beginning, the Newark, N.J., product was shaking his head over what might have been.
"If you have nine rebounds in the first four minutes of the game, shouldn't you get 30 (for the game)," he said. "I mean, if you have nine in the first four minutes, how hard is it to get to 30?"
With EKU concentrating its defense on Faried in the post, often doubling down and sometimes running three defenders at him, it opened up the perimeter for Morehead.
The scalding-hot Maze Stallworth, who entered the game having made 12 of his prior 16 three-point attempts, hit four of seven treys Wednesday and led MSU with 20 points. Sophomore forward Steve Peterson chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Yet just as Faried has been the foundation for Tyndall's impressive rebuilding job at Morehead State, he was the key Wednesday night.
John Wall is not the only college basketball player in the commonwealth who can make you say 'Wow.'
Bounding up and down the court like Tigger of Winnie the Pooh fame, Faried even makes defense and rebounding cool.
"He is fun to watch," said former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, one of the 5,290 fans in attendance Wednesday night. "He's like a (Dennis) Rodman. He goes after every (rebound)."
A year ago as a sophomore, Faried helped Morehead earn its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the Reagan Era (1984). This year, Eagles fans are hoping he will lead MSU to a repeat even if it means taking down league champion Murray State.
Given that a player with the athletic gifts of Faried figures to be a once-a-decade find at a school like Morehead, the good folks in Rowan County are also sweating out what Faried's plans for next season are.
An MSU spokesman says six NBA scouts have already requested credentials for the Eagles showdown with Murray Feb. 25.
Will Faried be back in blue and gold next season?
"I think so," Tyndall said after the EKU game. "I'm going to go talk to his mom after the season. But if you can't be a first-round pick, you shouldn't go. All the projections I've seen have him in the second round at best.
"He can come back and be the best player in this school's history and work on his game toward becoming that first-round pick."
Projecting Faried for the next level is interesting. His athleticism, his zeal for rebounding and a motor that revs like Dale Jr.'s at Daytona give him a shot to make it in the play-for-pay.
On the other hand, he's listed at 6-foot-8, looks a little shorter and still isn't much of a scoring threat outside 6 feet of the basket.
Another college season to refine his offensive skill set would probably be for the best.
Then again, "if we could get him to play every four-minute segment like (he did the first one tonight)," said Tyndall, "he will be a lottery pick."
That would be something to see.