Murray State’s run this season is quite possibly the best team story we’ve seen in the OVC in years. But it’s also making it much, much harder to cover the rest of the OVC, because you get the feeling they’re playing at a different level than the rest of the conference.
Most years, you’d look at a team like Eastern Illinois at 6-4 in non-conference play, and while they haven’t really beaten anyone, a .500 record heading into OVC play is generally successful.
Except when you compare it to 12-0 Murray State.
On the flip side, UT Martin will enter conference play Wednesday at 3-10. That’s not successful under almost any definition.
But they get to wipe the slate clean, when they open conference play against…12-0 Murray State.
This is what I’m talking about. All roads lead to Murray right now.
Here’s tonight’s Final Word:
[IPFW 82, UT Martin 76] Game Story: Loss leaves more questions than answers for struggling Skyhawks.
I’ve said this before, but I really, really want to like the Skyhawks. Jason James is a class act, I love the emotion Mike Liabo shows while on the court, and to a lesser extent, Troy King shows. And I still believe Myles Taylor may be one of the best freshman in the OVC. But it’s just so hard to like this team.
But James is right when he talks about his team not playing with a lot of energy. I remember one moment in the second half where Taylor makes a great 2-handed dunk as the Skyhawks were on the comeback trail, and the bench sat lifeless. A few minutes later, IPFW’s bench was cheering a layup. Next play, UTM makes a nearly identical play. The bench? Still lifeless.
And that’s one reason I’ve been on the Liabo soapbox this season. Because you can see him trying to get his team into the game when he’s on the floor. He’s not the most skilled player on the Skyhawks squad, but he’s aggressive, something the Skyhawks lack on offense, and plays with passion, something the Skyhawks simply lack at times. He does need to play smarter. He does need to pass more. And he does get out of position on defense.
But I think before you can worry about fixing the fundamental problems with the Skyhawks squad, (like how to stay in position while in a 2-3 zone defense) you have to fix the energy problem. And that’s where a player like Liabo can help.
I know players X and Y are going to produce, but they aren’t getting any help from the rest of the starting 5.
For EIU, players X and Y are Jeremy Granger and Alfonzo McKinnie.
Today, they do get 13 points from Malcolm Herron, who only had 18 points on the season going into tonight’s game, and Joey Miller does pitch in 8 points in 30 minutes.
This game falls more on the defense, as Northwestern shoots 54% from the field, and 52% behind the arc. Most of those 3’s come from John Shurna. By “most”, I mean 9 of 12. That’s both what he shot from 3-point range, and how many of Northwestern’s 3’s he hit.
He averages hitting 2 three’s a game.
He hit nine against EIU. Nine. Of Twelve.
Yeah, that’s going to lose you a basketball game. Quite possibly every single time.