Eastern Kentucky rang in the New Year with a convincing 63-52 win over South Carolina State Saturday evening in McBrayer Arena. This was the final regular season non-conference game for the Colonels.
Eastern (8-5) never trailed as the Colonels scored the first 15 points. Five different players lit up the scoring sheet during the opening spurt.
South Carolina State (4-12) missed its first eight shots and turned the ball over five times before finally making a bucket with 12:29 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs hung around in the opening 20 minutes thanks to grabbing 11 offensive rebounds and tallying 13 second-chance points. However, a strong first half from senior Eric Stutz, 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting, helped EKU take a 35-24 advantage into intermission.
The Colonels stretched their lead to a game-high 21 points, 51-30, following senior Timmy Knipp's lay-in with 12:41 remaining. South Carolina State, which was held below 60 points for the 12th time, would only get as close as 11 points the rest of the way.
Stutz and junior Denzel Richardson each produced a game-high 18 points. Stutz netted 80 percent (8-of-10) of his field goal attempts while Richardson chipped in with a career-best four three-pointers.
For South Carolina State, Darryl Palmer was the only player in double figures with 16 tallies.
The Colonels begin Ohio Valley Conference play on Thursday at Tennessee-Martin. Tip-off against the 8-5 Skyhawks is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.
Eric Stutz is now five points away from becoming the 13th player in Eastern Kentucky history to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds.
South Carolina State entered the game averaging 58.5 points per contest. The Bulldogs have now been held to less than 60 points 12 times in 16 games.
In its previous two games, EKU had turned the ball over 25 fewer times than its opponents. The Colonels had just four fewer turnovers than South Carolina State.
Eastern Kentucky entered the game second in the nation in turnover margin (+10.9) and third in steals per game (11.6 spg). The Colonels finished with six steals.
S.C. State had made just 36.3 percent of its shots from the field this season, ranking 340 among 345 Division I teams. The Bulldogs knocked down 39.6 percent on Saturday.
Eastern's previous two opponents had shot a combined 56 percent from three-point range. South Carolina State hit just 2-of-16 from long range for 12.5 percent.
Corey Walden now needs 46 more steals to break the EKU career record of 221.
This was the fourth meeting between the two teams. The Colonels now lead the all-time series 3-1.