Panthers go for 5th straight OVC win

Jehad Abbed, Assistant Sports Editor

Two of the last unbeaten teams in the Ohio Valley Conference will go head-to-head on Thursday when Eastern men’s basketball faces Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY.

The (10-6) Panthers are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, which includes their first four OVC match-ups.

The (10-5) Colonels are also riding a four-game streak of their own with the last two coming by way of conference opponents Tennessee-Martin and Southeast Missouri.

Eastern Kentucky is the defending OVC champion, which would surely paint a target on the backs of Colonels players from the rest of the conference.

Eastern comes into the game as the number one defense in the conference allowing just 60.2 points per game while the Colonels are the second best offense in the conference.

Eastern Kentucky scores 73.6 points per game and suit two of the top 10 offensive players in the OVC.

Senior guard Corey Walden leads the Colonels with an average of 18.4 points per game while senior forward Eric Stutz adds his own 13.4.

Walden scored 17 points in the last meeting between these two teams in January of 2014.  Eastern Kentucky won in convincing fashion 100-81 behind former senior guard Glenn Cosey’s 10 three-pointers.

Eastern still boasts the top spot in the OVC for field goal percentage defense only allowing teams to shoot just 39 percent.

After going 4-0 in their first four OVC games, the Panthers are playing with confidence along side junior forward Chris Olivier who was named last week’s OVC player of the week.

Olivier is tearing through conference opponents scoring 18 points per game while grabbing and average of seven rebounds.

Eastern also starts the OVC Co-Newcomer of the week in junior guard LeTrell Viser.  Viser is the conference’s second best three-point shooter division play.  He averages 2.8 made shots from beyond the arc as well as 2.3 steals per game against OVC teams.

Eastern Kentucky is the best free-throw shooting team in the conference while the Panthers are the third worst.  The Colonels connect on 84 percent of their free throws while Eastern is shooting more than 20 percent lower from the stripe.

Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour said that he doesn’t believe they are a bad free-throw shooting team.

He said the majority of the free throws taken by the Panthers are at the hands of Olivier who seems to be the player that teams foul the most.

Olivier has a 52 percent free throw average while he’s been awarded nearly 40 more attempts than any of his teammates.

Eastern has fallen to the Colonels six of their last seven meetings. The last time the Panthers beat Eastern Kentucky was in February of 2010.

Eastern looks to reverse the trend and remain unbeaten in the OVC as they travel to Richmond for a 6:30 tip-off Thursday night inside McBrayer Arena.

Jehad Abbed can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].