BY: LANE TAYLOR
Eastern’s Men’s Basketball team suffered their first OVC defeat this weekend on a two-game road trip.
The Colonels lost to Belmont University, 76-83 on Thursday, Jan.17 and defeated Jacksonville State University, 73-62 Saturday, Jan. 19. This pushed their OVC record to 5-1.
The Colonels (15-4, 5-1 OVC) overcame another double-digit first half deficit, Thursday night at Belmont (15-4, 6-0 OVC).
The Colonels overcame being down by 17 late in the first half by capturing a four-point lead with a little over six minutes left in the game. However, this time, Eastern could not hold on for the W.
Belmont got hot toward the end, going on a 12-0 run and securing the 83-76 win over the visiting Colonels.
Going into the game both teams were undefeated in OVC play, and both ranked inside the top 20 of the Mid Major National rankings; Belmont being number eight and Eastern sitting at number 17.
Eastern was led in scoring by senior point guard, Mike DiNunno. Making 24 points in the game, he was able to make his season high.
“Coach had me coming off a lot of ball screens,” DiNunno said, when asked what attributed to his big night. “[It] allowed me to hit a few step back threes, and carry the load offensively.”
Timmy Knipp, a sophomore guard, scored 13 points, a career high against the Bruins.
Knipp came off the bench for the Colonels and hit multiple clutch threes during Eastern’s impressive second half run.
“I gave some energy, created some and helped overcome the deficit,” Knipp said about his performance.
One area where the Colonels hurt themselves was on the glass. Belmont out-rebounded Eastern, 38-19.
“We’ve got to get more boards,” Knipp said. “We’ve been working on our rebounding here lately in practice.”
DiNunno attributed Eastern’s weak rebounding and losing important players, Orlando Williams and Marcus Lewis to injury as main factors in why they found themselves down 17.
“Orlando and Marcus, two of our top guys going out and us being in foul trouble was huge,” DiNunno said. “Not getting rebounds and not keeping up with their [Belmont’s] pace was what hurt us down the stretch.”
Belmont had been on an absolute tear against OVC opponents after winning their first four games by an average of 28.5 points.
They are 78-12 against conference opponents in their home venue.
“It wasn’t the sheer size of the place,” DiNunno said, when asked what made their arena so difficult to visit.
“They have a good fan base and a hostile student section. And they are just a tough team.”
Aside from their loss, the Colonels had to bounce back quickly Saturday night in their final road trip game against Jacksonville State (12-7, 4-4 OVC).
Eastern won by a score of 73-62 and was led by transfer and sophomore guard, Corey Walden.
Walden scored a career high 28 points and DiNunno matched his season high of 24.
Walden was awarded OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week for his efforts against Jacksonville. This is his second award this season.
Some players say they are using what they learned from the past weekend to help prepare for their next game against OVC team Tennessee State.
“We need to guard the arc,” said Knipp. “[We] need to keep them out of the lane, keep them from driving.”
DiNunno said he personally will look to attack when lanes open and will continue to keep his teammates involved.
The Colonels will be at home for their Jan. 24 game against Tennessee State.