- Letters to Editor
BY: TYLER PHILLIPS
Eastern traveled to Tennessee State on Saturday March 2 and came up short in overtime. The Colonels (23-8, 12-4) fell to the Tennessee State Tigers 85-81 on their senior night.
“They played hard for 45 minutes,” Mike DiNunno said. “It was their senior night and they played extremely hard in front of their home crowd.”
The Tigers (17-13, 11-5 OVC) outscored the Colonels 8-3 in overtime. Eastern was outrebounded 42-29. Tennessee State’s Robert Covington grabbed 16 of those rebounds. Covington didn’t play the last time the two teams met this season at Eastern.
DiNunno scored a team high 24 points and had six assists.
DiNunno played 43 out of the 45 minutes in the game, but head coach Jeff Neubauer has shown a trust in DiNunno that he can carry the team.
“Coach has shown that kind of trust me in all year,” DiNunno said. “There was a period there where Glenn [Cosey] was hurt and a couple other injuries, and I was leading the league in minutes played because I had to.”
Eastern and Tennessee State are the third and fourth seeds, respectively, in the OVC tournament. Eastern will play the winner between Southeast Missouri and Eastern Illinois on Thursday.
Despite the loss against Tennessee State, DiNunno said the team is confident going into the tournament.
“This could potentially be my last set of college basketball games,” he said. “It’s crazy, but it’s such a good feeling. We finally have all the pieces together, and I’m leading a team that has been doing really well this year. Our confidence is up and we have so much confidence going down there.”
DiNunno found out before practice on Tuesday he had made the First Team All-OVC.
“I was very humbled by it,” DiNunno said. “It’s all attributed to winning. It goes to my teammates just as much as me, them along with my coaches made it possible. I’m extremely grateful that coach gave me an opportunity to play here.”
In addition to DiNunno, sophomore Corey Walden and junior Glenn Cosey were chosen to the OVC All-Newcomer Team.
This coming weekend will be one of the biggest weekends in Eastern basketball history. The Colonels will face some of the best teams in the country, all vying for the desired NCAA tournament bid.
Eastern plays the winner of the game between the No. 6 Southeast Missouri and No. 7 Eastern Illinois in the OVC quarterfinals at 9 p.m. March 7.