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Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky: Game Preview

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Eastern Kentucky tries their luck against the undefeated #1 Kentucky Wildcats.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The games seem to come fast and furious now, with the Eastern Kentucky Colonels making the short drive up Interstate 75 from Richmond to Lexington to challenge the Kentucky Wildcats. It’s easy to overlook Eastern, but that would be a mistake — they are actually a very solid basketball team. In fact, according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, the Colonels are the 5th best team UK has played in what will be nine starts, coming in at #150. To give you an idea how that compares, Auburn is ranked #165 and Missouri #138. EKU is ranked higher than Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Oregon St. and Washington St., just to name a few much bigger NCAA teams.

General

About OPPONENT:

Location: Richmond, KY Conference: Ohio Valley Head Coach: Jeff Neubauer (since 2005) NCAA Appearances: 8 Most recent NCAA appearance: 2014 Most recent NCAA win: Never Founded: 1906 Enrollment: 15,967 (2012) Last season’s record: 21-9, (11-5 conf.) Source: Basketball State

Season so far for OPPONENT:

Season record: 4-2, (0-0)

So far, the Colonels have mostly played inferior competition, but they have played at BYU (L, 90-76) and at home against Valparaiso (L, 72-66). They gave Valpo a good game, but failed to pull the upset. They are currently on a 2-game losing streak against top 100 competition that figures to be extended to three today.

Series history

Eastern Kentucky and UK don’t have an extensive history. Their first game was in 1990, and there have been nine meetings since then. The Wildcats are undefeated against the Colonels. The two teams have played once in the NCAA Tournament, back in 2005 in Indianapolis. Kentucky won that game 72-64. The last meeting between the two squads was 2006, where Kentucky prevailed 78-65. Today’s game is unlikely to be as competitive as either of those.

Stats

EKU Roster:

NO. NAME STATUS POS. HT. WT. CL. HOMETOWN (PREVIOUS SCHOOL)
2 Corey Walden S** G 6-2 189 Sr. Daytona Beach, Fla. (Brevard Community College)
5 Isaac McGlone S* G 6-2 175 So. Lancaster, Ohio (Bloom-Carroll High School)
22 Timmy Knipp S* G 6-7 205 Sr. Olive Hill, Ky. (Elliott County High School)
32 Ja'Mill Powell S+ G 6-7 180 Jr. Bridgeport, Conn. (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College)
42 Eric Stutz S** F 6-8 225 Sr. Newburgh, Ind. (Castle High School)
3 Denzel Richardson MR** G 6-5 200 Jr. Baltimore, Md. (Pensacola State College)
11 Jaylen Babb-Harrison MR+ G 6-4 187 R-So. Ajax, Ontario (J. Clarke Richardson High School)
23 Jonathan Hood MR* G 6-4 206 Jr. Durham, N.C. (Santa Fe College)
0 Paul Jackson R G 6-1 178 Fr. Lithonia, Ga. (Martin Luther King Jr. High School)
1 Robbie Stenzel R* G 6-5 195 Sr. Winchester, Ky. (George Rogers Clark High School)
4 Tommy Matthews R*@ G 6-1 180 Jr. Clinton, Md. (Surratsville High School)
13 Daniel Norl R G 6-2 185 Fr. Clarksville, Tenn. (Kenwood High School)
14 Daniel Parke R*@ G 6-1 165 So. Richmond, Ky. (Madison Central High School)
21 JaVontae Hawkins R* G 6-5 211 Jr. Flint, Mich. (University of South Florida)
24 K.J. Bluford R- G 6-1 185 Jr. Minneapolis, Minn. (Northeast CC)
33 Deverin Muff R* F 6-8 212 Sr. Strongsville, Ohio (Strongsville High School)









Legend
S Starter
MR Major reserve
R Reserve
* Returning player
** Returning starter
+ Eligible transfer/red shirt
- Ineligible
@ Walk on
& Injured, not available

Source: EKU Sports Site

Team Comparison

Stat UK EKU
Record 8-0 4-2
RPI 2 191
Home 7-0 4-0
Away 0-0 1-0
Neutral 1-0 2-0
Top 25 2-0 0-0
Sched. Strength 232 253
AP Rank 1 NR
Coaches Rank 1 NR
Kenpom.com 1 150


Four Factors

EKU at UK pregame four factors

EKU Team Notes

  • EKU is a really bad offensive rebounding team. That’s mostly due to their lack of size, they are a pretty small team having only 2 players taller than 6-7"
  • The Colonels take very good care of the ball, or have so far.
  • EKU is a below-average shooting team from everywhere.
  • The Colonels make their free throws.
  • EKU is sixth in the nation in steals. They are an aggressive defensive team that forces the second-most turnovers in Division I.
  • EKU will likely zone Kentucky a lot, but look for a full-court press.
  • A disproportionate number of the Colonel’s points come from outside the arc, over 37%. 50% of their shots come from three.

EKU Player notes

  • Junior forward Timmy Knipp is the team’s best shooter from the perimeter and leading scorer. He’s also the leading rebounder for the team.
  • Senior point guard Corey Walden is the team’s leading scorer and assist man at 18.4/4.6. He draws a ton of fouls and makes his free throws. He is a good finisher at the rim, shooting 61.5% from 2, which is outstanding for a guard. He is a good but not great 3-point shooter.
  • Ja’Mill Powell is the third leading scorer, but he doesn’t contribute much besides points. He’s not a great 3-point shooter percentage-wise, but he takes a lot.
  • Freshman Eric Stutz is the biggest guy on the team and the second leading rebounder at 4.2 per game. He’s not really a 3-point threat, but he is a great defender.
  • Isaac McGone is another player who doesn’t score, but he is a nightmare on defense, averaging 4.1% steals.
  • Jonathan Hood is the sniper off the bench, second-leading 3-point shooter with no conscience. He rarely shoots anything but a three.

Injuries

No injuries to report for either team.

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Corey Walden vs. Andrew Harrison/Tyler Ulis — This will be a tough matchup for Andrew defensively. Walden is quick, loves to attack the basket and is going to give Andrew fits. He can shoot the ball if left open. Unfortunately, Walden isn’t going to be able to finish drives against Kentucky because of the shot blockers.

    Defensively, Walden will be able to hold Andrew down if he can stay in front. If Harrison gets his head and shoulders past him, Walden will be hopelessly over-matched due to Harrison’s size and strength.

    Tyler Ulis is another story. He is simply better than Walden in every measurable dimension but size.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Isaac McGone vs. Aaron Harrison/Devin Booker — McGone is a defensive nightmare, and Aaron must be particularly careful handling the ball against him. Aaron’s size will enable him to shoot over the top of McGone and overpower him on dribble drives. McGone is not much of a threat to score, so Aaron’s defense is not likely to be tested.

    Devin Booker also can shoot over McGone, but he’s been a little suspect with his ballhandling lately, and has to be very careful against the defensive-minded EKU guard.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Timmy Knipp vs. Alex Poythress/Trey Lyles — Knipp is a really good player, and Kentucky must stay at home against him on the perimeter. He’s also a good rebounder, so blockouts are a must. Alex Poythress is far too athletic and strong for Knipp to drive on, but if Poythress does not guard him outside, Knipp will burn him. Also, Alex must get a body on Knipp to keep him off the glass.

    Trey Lyle’s overwhelming size makes this an interesting matchup when he’s in the game. I think Knipp can get around Lyles, but he’s not really a slasher, more of a spot-up shooter.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Ja’Mill Powell vs. Willie Cauley-Stein/Marcus Lee — Powell and WCS really don’t mix well. WCS has it all over him, and Powell has a tendency to turn the ball over — bad news against the best overall UK defensive player and second-best steals man.

    Powell matches up better with Marcus Lee, but it will still be a struggle for him. Lee is probably as quick on the perimeter as WCS, and almost as long.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Eric Stutz vs. Karl-Anthony Towns/Dakari Johnson — This is a huge mismatch, the biggest on the team. Stutz has no hope of defending the talented Towns at all — he gives up size, length, weight, talent — pretty much everything there is. I have no idea how Stutz plans to get off a shot.

    It’s no better against Johnson, who is overwhelmingly bigger and stronger than Stutz. Again, a huge mismatch that UK will relentlessly exploit.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

EKU has a nice bench with a couple of good shooters, but they are simply no match at all for their Kentucky counterparts.

Advantage: Kentucky

Analysis

EKU has a nice team, but they have almost no size. Their entire offense is going to be three-point shooting, and unless they get very hot from very, very deep or get a lot of good looks in transition, they have no reasonable chance to compete against Kentucky for very long. No doubt they will come out with early energy and may even give UK a contest for as much as a half — they do have good shooters who can make them if they get good looks. The problem is, I have no clue how they are going to defend Kentucky’s big guys.

EKU is comparable in size to UT-Arlington, although they are a bit more of a threat when it comes to shooting the ball, and they are very tough defensively. If Kentucky doesn’t take good care of the basketball, they could wind up giving the Colonels some very easy baskets, and they must avoid getting into a lot of transition with them, because that’s where the Colonels will find the most good looks for their shooters, and that’s the way their offense works.

Kentucky’s biggest concerns against EKU are getting the ball taken from them, transition defense, and defending the arc. They have to focus on those two things, because that’s how Eastern beats teams. For instance, against Southern Utah, the Colonels made ten threes out of thirty. Against BYU, they made nine, and against Valpo they made 12-37 and had 14% steals.

This will be a good test for UK when it comes to guarding the arc. This is a team that reminds you of a (very) poor-man’s version of Rick Pitino’s early teams at Kentucky — press, run, and shoot threes in transition.