Recently the Colonels (8-6, 3-3 OVC) stumbled through a rough six-day span, but coach Jeff Neubauer feels the four-day preparation for a hot Morehead State University (9-5, 5-1 OVC) is exactly what his team needed to right the ship.

The in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rivals meet tonight in McBrayer Arena. Tip is set for 7 p.m. and will be televisioned on ESPNU.

Just before the New Year, Eastern Kentucky University played another in-state rival — the University of Kentucky.

And despite a good showing, came up just short in a 78-65 loss in Lexington. Two days later the Colonels were handed a 88-74 defeat at home by Southeast Missouri State.

But, with no time to lick their wounds had to be on the road a day later to face another OVC opponent, Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles turned up the heat and handed EKU its third straight loss, 75-53.

“We’ve lost three in a row. The first of those was at Kentucky where we played pretty well, shot the ball pretty well, but didn’t win,” Neubauer said. “The last two here in the league, we’ve just struggled a little bit more. So we have had some time to prepare for this next one and we feel like we can get this thing back on track.”

The losing streak is the first time this season that the Colonels have lost successive games. And the only three game streak was when they strung three wins together over Kenyon College, UNC Asheville and James Madison.

A key ingredient to EKU’s early success was solid defense. It held opponents to 61.3 points per game in route to a 8-3 and 3-1 league record. However, in the last three games the Colonels have allowed their opponents an average of 80.3 ppg.

“We have played some very talented teams, not only in Kentucky, but also SEMO and Tennessee Tech have great athletes, very capable scorers,” Neubauer said. “That’s been a big problem for us. We’ve also given up quite a bit in transition and I think that’s got to be our focus. We’ve got to stop people from scoring easy points in transition.”

The Wildcats had 24 points off turnovers and in fast break opportunities, while the Redhawks scored 30 points off turnovers.

Also during the skid leading scorer Mike Rose (14.2 ppg) has had two of his worst games. In Lexington he had at that point a season-tying low seven points on two-of-17 shooting. He bounced back against SEMO with 14 points, but turned in a season low four points on one-of-10 (0-of-7 from three point range) shooting at Tech.

After exploding at UT Martin for 26 points and a record tying seven threes, the sophomore has hit just four-of-24 from deep.

“We don’t like to consider it a slump, we just think he’s missed some shots in some games,” Neubauer said about Rose. “He’s been very consistent for us this year if you go through our 14 games we’ve played. He’s been a big part of our success. We just look forward to him making shots. Obviously, he’s not made shots here in the last couple of games, but he will.”

Senior Julian Mascoll continues to be a staple on the offensive end with 12.7 points, while Adam Leonard is contributing 11.9.

Under new head coach Donnie Tyndall — a Eagle alum — the team has been distancing themselves from a dismal final year under Kyle Macy.

The Eagles come into McBrayer on a two-game winning streak and five of its last six. Morehead’s nine wins thus far is five more then its total last year (4-23, 3-17 OVC). While its 5-1 league mark has them tied with Austin Peay for second, despite being picked last in the preseason poll.

“I think our team has shown a toughness and grittiness we hoped to instill in this program when we took it over. I think our guys have bought in and been on board since day one,” Tyndall said. “We have Eastern Kentucky at their place tomorrow night which is a huge game for us in regard to being a rivalry game. I’m sure Eastern Kentucky will have a great atmosphere over there. It will be a tough environment for our team to play and it’s on ESPN so it should be a great game, exciting game.”

Preseason OVC player of the year Shaun Williams leads the Eagles with 13.4 points per game, while Quentin Pryor (12.9) and Cordaryl Ballard (10.5 ppg) also average double figures.

Nikola Stojakovic has been leading the way at point guard and is who Tyndall really sees as the big change for this year’s team.

The 6-foot-2 junior guard from Serbia and Montenegro leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.38 (69 assists and 29 turnovers). In Saturday’s win over Tennessee Tech, the junior had 11 assists with one turnover.

But Tyndall knows that facing a rival team on a losing-streak can be unfortunate timing for his team.

“I know that Jeff (Neubauer) does an outstanding job with his team. I know that they probably feel that coming off back-to-back losses that their backs are against the wall a little bit. So they will probably come out with a little more vengeance knowing that not only is this a rival game, but a big game that they feel like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to take care of this on our home floor.’”

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