Well UT Martin, it’s down to just you.
After tonight, every OVC team is in the win column in conference play, except the lowly Skyhawks, who put up just 55 points on the road against Eastern Illinois. What did head coach Jason James say about his team again, that they play better away from Martin?
Austin Peay gets into the win column in a big way, and in doing so leaves the OVC race for 2nd wide open.
Here’s tonight’s Final Word:
Give Jacksonville State a lot of credit…they went into the Racers home and gave Murray State a game. Which makes the 2nd straight time that I say that about a team that travels to Murray.
So how good was Jacksonville State’s defense tonight. The last time the Racers were held to 42% shooting or worse? UAB on November 20th. It’s also the only time the Racers were held under 42% all season. In fact, only one other team in conference play has held the Racers under 50%, and that was Eastern Kentucky.
Which brings me to the Racers. Their worst games in conference play so far have both been at home. On the road, they smoked Eastern Illinois, and played well at Austin Peay. At home, they blew past UT Martin (but who doesn’t), but struggled with EKU and Jacksonville State. That could say more about those teams than the Racers, but I have mentioned before that if the Racers lose, it would probably be on the road. But I’m not sure of the sanctity of the CFSB Center after two tough games.
[Eastern Kentucky 65, Austin Peay 80] Do you know what’s the problem with being a small team? When you go up against a team with a talented front court, you find it hard to stop them. John Fraley and Melvin Baker combined for 41 of Austin Peay’s 80 points, and use a late game run to stomp Eastern Kentucky, and get their first OVC win.
Oh, and Austin Peay scored 80 points despite hitting just 2 3-pointers. (2-7 for the game) They did it thanks to 60% shooting from the field, thanks to Fraley and Baker hitting a combined 16-21 from the field.
So is Austin Peay back? That’s the question we’ll find out Saturday when they play a much tougher defensive team in Jacksonville State.
You just get the feeling with this EKU team that they’re built to finish in the middle of the OVC, because they struggled to beat SEMO at home, and got clobbered against Austin Peay and fell to Murray State on the road. That’s the 3 best front courts in the conference this year. But against smaller teams, they’ve played great, and it’s why even with the loss, they’re still 4-2 in conference team. But in Nashville, where you can’t avoid all three of those teams, what’s the answer?
[UT Martin 55, EIU 68] And the losing streak continues.
Remember how at the end of the SEMO game, UT Martin’s head coach Jason James said that the ball was in the hands of their best perimeter player, Mike Liabo? More and more I want to challenge that claim. Liabo goes 1-9 from 3-point range; the Skyhawks finish as a team 2-16 from deep, and another woeful performance send UT Martin to their 7th straight loss of the season.
I really am challenging what James says a lot in this post tonight…
One note of encouragement for UT Martin: the turnover problem they experienced early in the season continues to get better. The Skyhawks turned the ball over just 10 times against EIU, compared to 16 for the guard-heavy Panthers.
Jeremy Granger, Mr. Consistency, has an off night tonight, shooting just 3-12 from the field, but is helped out by a 5-7 performance from deep by L.C. Doss, who led all scorers with 19 points. Eastern Illinois will likely face a much stiffer test Saturday as they travel to SEMO.
[SIU Edwardsville 68, SEMO 85] This was actually a game into the second half, before SEMO was able to run away with it.
I’ve been on the 3-point watch with the Cougars all season, and while they hit 7 tonight, it was out of 21 attempts, just 33%. So far in OVC play, when they’ve had success, they’ve shot the 3-ball much better than that. I’m not trying to say that 33% is bad, but it’s just not enough for an offense that struggles to score inside.
On SEMO’s side, I’ve been critical of the guard play at times, but also said when they’re guards are good, SEMO is one of the best teams in the OVC. Tonight, Marland Smith and Nick Niemczyk were good, combining for 37 points and 6-3’s. Tyler Stone and Leon Powell struggled again, making me rethink earlier claims that the Redhawks have the best front court in the OVC. It’s still good, but I’m not sure it’s the best. Powell was in foul trouble again tonight, which is pretty well synonymous with him being in the game.
SEMO scored SIU Edwardsville defense, shooting 56% from the field on the night.