2 OVC teams pick up major upsets on the road, trend on Twitter, and I get to witness one in person.
But because of all the games, and all the travel, I got behind on recaps.
But fear not, here’s where I play catchup in a morning edition of the Final Word:
Saturday, December 10th
[Austin Peay 74, Tennessee 70] Thoughts on their upset. If you had written off Austin Peay after 0-9 like I had, well then this came as a major shock to you as well, I’m sure. John Fraley made his return to the lineup with a solid 5-6 shooting night, but it was Tyshwan Edmondson who stole the show with 19 points off the bench as Austin Peay scored the last 8 points of the game on their way to pulling off their first ever win in Knoxville. Credit Loos’ decision to switch to a zone defense in the 2nd half, which caused all kind of problems for Tennessee, but also note UT’s 5-19 shooting from behind the arc. A few more of those fall down, it’s a much different game. Cameron Tatum is held to just one point, but no one could stop any Governor from shooting 59% in the lane. UT may be a little down this season, but this is still a quality upset on the road for a team that needed a pick-me-up.
[Central Michigan 57, Tennessee State 65] The Chippewas jumped out to a quick lead against the Tigers, but Tennessee State battled back to within 2 at the half, and controlled the 2nd half on their way to good win at home. Tennessee State shoots just 4-16 from behind the arc, but got 24 shots from the charity stripe compared to just 8 for Central Michigan. Another solid game for Robert Covington who puts up 17 points and 8 rebounds in the win. M.J. Rhett played just 15 minutes as a starter, only going 1-2 from the field, but some of his minutes went to guard Kharon Butcher, as the Tigers tried to match Central Michigan’s smaller, quicker lineup. Surprisingly, The Chippewas edged the Tigers on the boards, but turned the ball over 19 times.
[Southern 50, Jacksonville State 55] Very rarely can a team shoot under 30% from the field and win in basketball, yet somehow the Gamecocks pull that off against Southern. Jacksonville hits 29% from FG range, 29% from behind the arc, and only 59% from the FT line in the win over Southern. They do that thanks to 14 more free throws than the Jaguars, and 19 Southern turnovers compared to just 9 for Jacksonville State. It’s hard to say that anyone has a “good” offensive game given the Jaguars statistics, but Stephen Hall did score a team high 13 points (on 4-15 shooting) and pull down 9 rebounds.
[UT Martin 62, Middle Tennessee State 78] Here’s what’s getting lost in UTM’s horrific start this season: Myles Taylor is one of the best freshman in the conference. A team high 21 points for Taylor, along with a team high 5 rebounds, but MTSU shoots 64% from the field, and forces 20 UTM turnovers in a game in which they were never really challenged. Mike Liabo has another poor shooting night, finishing with 13 points on 4-13 shooting. But the rest of the starters, aside from Taylor, combined for just 13 points, 0 free throw attempts, and take just 13 shots. You cannot win when you’re not getting production from 1 or 2 of your starters, much less 4.
[Georgia Southern 59, Eastern Kentucky 63] It’s hard to say at this point if Eastern Kentucky will be a real contender in the OVC. Yes, they’re picking up wins, but it’s nail biter wins against teams I don’t think should be nail biters. But a win is a win, and the Colonels improve to 6-5 on the season thanks to another monster game from Jaron Jones, who seems to be emerging as a leader on this team. The Eagles shot just 2-13 from 3-point range, but cough up the ball 17 times, and hit just 9-18 from the free throw line. Off the bench, Jeff Johnson, has a great game, adding 10 points and a team high 6 rebounds in 18 minutes.
[South Dakota 57, Morehead State 56] When I say a game is a “winnable game” like I did in the First word for this matchup Saturday, what I’m really saying is that I expect that team to win. So I classify this as a bad loss for Morehead State at home. Morehead struggles again on offense, shooting 38% from the field, and 4-19 from three point range. They lose despite only 10 turnovers, and outrebounding the Coyotes 39-20. South Dakota hit 50% from the field, 8-17 from 3-point range, and only got to the line 12 times. Morehead State should have won this game, but had to dig its way out of a double digit deficit in the second half.
[UMKC 74, SEMO 69] Full Recap. I think SEMO’s success in the OVC this season will depend on two things: Leon Powell‘s ability to stay our of foul trouble, and the play of their guards. Note the use of the plural on “guards.” Marland Smith has a monster game, but they get little production from Lucas Nutt and Nick Niemczyk. This is the story of SEMO’s season. Powell and Tyler Stone are going to get their production more often than not, but they’re not getting the help they need to win games. Doesn’t help that UMKC was hot from behind the arc. One thing not mentioned in the recap, total turnovers for the game: 17. 9 for SEMO, 8 for UMKC.
[Hannibal-LaGrange 45, SIU Edwardsville 67] Well, it’s a win! Another solid performance from Mark Yelovich but another cool night from behind the arc for the Cougars. Maybe their shooters aren’t as good from three as I thought. Derian Shaffer has a great night off the bench, adding 14 points on 6-6 shooting.
But the verdict is still out of SIUE getting wins in the OVC.
[Lipscomb 87, Tennessee State 89 OT] I just don’t know what to think about this TTU team. Yes, they’re getting wins, but much like Eastern Kentucky, every win is just so much tighter than it should be. That is, unless TTU isn’t the 2nd best team in the OVC. And I know this is a broken record at this point, but Jud Dillard and Kevin Murphy have huge games again for the Golden Eagles, and the rest of the team is mostly silent. A good game from Zac Swansey, who finished with 11 points and 6 assists, who is still a good point guard in the league, but his production has still fallen off from last season.
[Eastern Illinois 48, Western Illinois 64] I fear that this game might have confirmed my suspicions about the Panthers: that their record was “inflated” by playing a weak schedule. This was a close game at the half, before the Leathernecks ran away in the 2nd. Eastern Illinois forces only 5 turnovers from their rival, and despite a lot of minutes from their bench, (as usual) they just didn’t get any production. Whereas Western Illinois also got no production from their bench, but that’s because they didn’t play their bench. Poor shooting game from the Panthers, including going just 5-17 from the 3-point arc.
Sunday, November 11th.
[Murray St. 76, No.20 Memphis 72] Quick Thoughts after win. It’s hard to put into words what I saw in Memphis. This was an absolutely great game, between 2 great teams. You never got the feeling that one team was more talented than the other, or that one team wasn’t playing well. This was an absolute battle. And Murray State won that battle. This wasn’t a traditional “mid-major” upset over a major team. Murray didn’t change their style to suit Memphis. Murray hit 45% from 3, but they’re 43% on the season. They got to the free throw line. They hit big shots. And they got beat on plays from Memphis as well. This felt like a legitimate win, not a “one in a hundred tries” type of win. I think if these teams played a best of 7 series ala NBA style, it would go the distance. You just don’t see that often in these types of matchups.
[Jacksonville St. 51, Tulane 59] Well, this time Jacksonville State couldn’t escape from their poor shooting. Stephen Hall follows up his decent game in the win against Southern the week before with a horrible one, finishing with 3 points and 6 turnovers. But sophomore guard Brian Williams has a break out game, scoring a game high 21 points. I’m curious if this team can put together a complete game. They have one or two players that have a great game, while everyone else is flat. And that’s going to lead to a lot of losses.