Welcome to “Sort-em out” Saturday…where by the end of the day one of two things will have happened: We’ll finally have some separation in the OVC standings, or it will just continue to be a complete mess.
Based on this season so far, I’m guessing the latter. Morehead State has dominated at home, but they’re hosting OVC leaders Austin Peay. Murray has dominated Martin at home, never losing to the Skyhawks in the CFSB Center, but they dropped two straight at home this year after 25 straight home wins spanning multiple seasons. Jacksonville State is coming off their only win against an inconsistent at best Eastern Illinois squad, Tennessee State hops to return to their winning ways facing streaky Eastern Kentucky, and SEMO wants to stop the skid against Tennessee Tech. See, complete mess.
Austin Peay at Morehead State, 6:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: Morehead 85 – AP 86 (OT)
Close games are the norm when Govs, Morehead State meet
That’s the headline on Austin Peay’s website. Kind of an understatement coming from the team that’s played in more overtime games this year (6) than any other team in the nation, because every game’s a close game for Peay, but for this series, it’s completely true. 3 of the last 4 have gone to OT, with the only game ending in regulation just a 1 point affair.
A win for Austin Peay could be the nail in the coffin for Morehead State; Peay would have a full 3-game lead more than halfway though the conference season and the season sweep over the Eagles. Last time they met, Kenneth Faried was almost a non-issue, 4-13 shooting, only 14 points, but he did manage 18 rebounds, 9 off the offensive glass. The Govs didn’t allow a 2nd half offensive rebound in their win over Eastern Kentucky Thursday. Austin Peay’s, and the OVC’s leading scorer, TyShwan Edmondson was held relatively in check last go-round (22 points, averages over 19) but was a deadly 4-6 from 3-point range in the win. As a team, Austin Peay shot the lights out, hitting just under 56% from the floor. Morehead hit 11 3’s in the losing effort. (11-20)
Morehead is coming off a rallying win, coming back from 14 down to knock off 2nd place Tennessee State Thursday. The Govs have won 2 straight. Sam Goodman is expected back in the starting lineup for Morehead State tonight, after being replaced by Drew Kelly in Morehead’s last 2 games.
UT Martin at Murray State, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Murray 65 – UTM 54
This is a tweet from the voice of the Racers, Neal Bradley
If Tennessee Tech, UT Martin, and Morehead win tonight, Murray State will wake up in 6th place Sunday morning.
Think this is a “must-win” for the Racers? Overall history is on their side (20-0 all time @ Murray against Martin), recent history, like struggling for a win over SIU-E or Martin’s 4-game win streak, is against them. But how impressive is Martin’s win streak? Their 4 wins are over the bottom 3 teams officially in the conference that aren’t UTM, and SIU-E. It is at this point I’ll note that UT Martin beat SIU-E by almost twice Murray’s margin, and that both games happened in the past week. (Martin by 11, Murray by 6).
Murray’s Achilles heel may be one stat…Murray State is the only D-I team to not have a 20-point scorer all year. Think about that, not one Racer has scored 20, and we’re 20 games through the season. Defense may win championships, but their lack of any kind of go-to player has been evident lately. (Like when they went the last 10+ minutes without a field goal to Eastern Illinois, for instance) But the Racers did hang 96 on SEMO this week (without a 20-point scorer…somehow) so the offense is there. They shoot 45% from the field as a team, but an weak 70% from the FT line
This is a much better UTM team than last year (already more than doubling their win total) and are about as balanced as the Racers, with 4 of their 5 starters averaging between 9 and 13 points a game. The Racers have 4 between 9 and 11 PPG. Last time, it was freshman Terence Smith leading the way for the Skyhawks with 20 points, doing most of his damage at the line, hitting 10-11.
Jacksonville State at Eastern Illinois, 6:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: EIU 61 – Jax St. 54
There is life in the Gamecocks after all! Coming off their first conference win, on the road at SEMO, Jacksonville State travels to Eastern Illinois in a game that could have some tournament implications, especially if Jacksonville State pulls off the upset. The Gamecocks are 3 out of 8th place, 3 1/2 behind the 7th place Panthers, who are on a small slide, losing 2 straight.
The Panthers lead the OVC in FG% Defense, and in their last matchup, EIU held Jax St to 37% shooting. But The Panthers defense was uncharacteristically bad in their loss to Tennessee Tech, allowing Tech to shoot 53% from the field. Jeremy Granger seems to be stepping up since Tyler Laser‘s injury earlier in the season, netting his first career double-double in that loss to Tech.
There’s injuries on Jacksonville State’s side as well. Dominique Shellman is still out with a knee injury, although that’s not a huge loss for the Gamecocks. Last time out, Jacksonville State’s Nick Murphy was completely held in check, only allowed 7 points on 3 of 8 shooting. As a team, Jacksonville State only shot 9 free-throw’s the entire game.
Tennessee State at Eastern Kentucky, 6:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: EKU 49 – TSU 62
It’s rare when I will quote from the team’s previews this often, but the intro to Eastern Kentucky’s preview of this matchup hit the nail on the head
There will be plenty of three-point shots attempted Saturday night when the Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team hosts Tennessee
That’s because EKU and TSU are the top 3-point shooting teams in the OVC. Last time, neither team got the better of that matchup (EKU 8-27, TSU 7-22) but Tennessee State held the Colonels to 17 in the first half, cruising to a 13 point win.
Eastern Kentucky has won 6 of their last 8, including being the only team to top Morehead State at Morehead. But they’re coming off a loss to league leading Austin Peay in which no bench players scored for the Colonels. Eastern actually has a better road record in the OVC than home record. (Although that’s not as odd this year in the conference as it has been in years past)
Tennessee State has been on Austin Peay’s coattails all season, and winners of 4 of their last 5, but just can’t seem to get that push to stay with the Govs in first place. They’re looking to bounce back after a devastating loss to the Eagles, blowing a 14-point 2nd half lead despite 51% shooting, and 60% from 3-range. In the loss, TSU was out rebounded 42-23.
Tennessee Tech at Southeast Missouri, 6:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: SEMO 77 – TTU 75
At one point this season, everything seemed to be going well in Cape Giradeau. Despite a horrible non-conference campaign, the Skyhawks had won 4 straight in the OVC, and 5 of their last 6 games. And then the next 4 games happened, all of which were dropped by SEMO, putting the Skyhawks in the last qualifying spot for the OVC tournament. It’s been one of those years, and FT trouble may be a big reason why. SEMO is an anemic 63% from the charity stripe this year.
Tennessee Tech is another OVC road warrior, 4-2 on the road this year (only 2-2 at home) coming off an impressive shooting performance against Eastern Illinois. Tech shot 50% from the field in their last meeting, with 45 of the teams 75 points coming off the bench, including a team high 21 from Jud Dillard.
Game Notes: SEMO
TTU did not have game notes posted as of the time of this post