Eastern Kentucky University freshman Justin Stommes was slowed during the preseason with an ankle injury — a setback which came at an important time when he was trying to learning the team’s system.

The guard worked through it and has recently become a key component since coach Jeff Neubauer inserted him into the starting line-up.

He went from averaging 1.4 points per game through the first five games, to averaging 9.5 ppg since making his starting debut against James Madison.

He has started eight of the last nine games with the lone non-start coming at Austin Peay when he was battling illness.

The Minnesota-native had a career-high 19 points this past week at Southeast Missouri State, followed by 13 points against Tennessee Tech on Saturday.

“Justin is really playing very well since we inserted him into the starting line,” EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said. “He’s done a lot of good things. The thing he did better at SEMO is he was more conscious offensively of trying to shoot the ball. And he made four threes.”

He was more offensive-minded against Tech as well, going four-of-five from the floor, including one-of-two from three-point range.

Stommes’ scoring is not the only statistic that has improved since starting.

He went from averaging 1.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists to 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in the last nine games.

“He’s really been playing well for a while as far as handling the ball and making good decisions,” Neubauer said.

All of that has meant more time on the floor for the freshman. He went from averaging just 11.8 minutes a game to 28.2.

Dialls scores 700th point

Darnell Dialls needed just nine points heading into Saturday’s game with TTU to reach the 700-point mark.

In his career against the Golden Eagles, Dialls was averaging 5.8 points with his high being nine.

The Lexington native easily got his nine this time, though, finishing with 14 points on seven-of-10 shooting.

This season has been one of many historic performances for the senior center, who recorded his first collegiate double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) on Dec. 17 against Eastern Illinois. He followed that two games later with another double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds).

Then on Dec. 22 against Austin Peay, Dialls appeared in his 100th game as a Colonel.

The center is second on the team in scoring with 11.9 ppg and leads the team in rebounding with 6.6 a game.

Consistently low

During Jeff Neubauer’s tenure one thing has been consistent — a lack of rebounding.

The Colonels are currently ninth in the OVC in rebounding margin. They are being out rebounding by an average of 5.4 a game. The past two seasons EKU has finished 10th in the rebounding margin category at -4 a game.

In the eight losses thus far, the Colonels have been outrebounded 195 to 280, losing the battle by an average of 10.63.

“We’ve worked quite a bit on our block-outs,” Neubauer said. “We want to keep the rebounding battle close. We just can’t get outrebounded by 10 or 12.”

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