I want to start on a bit of a personal note: I’ve been a bit burnt out as of late. Between working long hours, traveling long hours, and having almost no personal time, I’m just exhausted. Hence the lack of posts this week outside the first /final words. Thanks to everyone for their patience with me. I needed a few days to kind of relax.
But we’re to the final stretch, and if you follow me on twitter (@OVCBall <–Shameless plug) the big discussion tonight was coaches on the hot seat. Expect a full post tomorrow, but I think there’s little doubt that one or more coaches might not be returning next season.
Here’s tonight’s Final Word:
[Tennessee Tech 82, Eastern Kentucky 65]
Remember when Eastern Kentucky looked like a threat to earn the 2-seed? Yeah, now I’m wondering if EKU is a top 4 team. And that’s not just because they lost to Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles are a good, yet not consistent, team. But the losses are adding up for the Colonels, and the defense is looking more and more exposed as the season goes on.
For the Golden Eagles, their success continues to hinge on the play of Kevin Murphy. Jud Dillard gets his 12-15 points consistently, but Murphy goes from games in the single digits to a 34 point performance tonight. It really seems like the better he does, the better the Golden Eagles do, and visa versa. But when, as a team, you go 27-29 from the charity stripe, you can go ahead and pencil in a win. 56% field goal shooting and 58% 3-point shooting don’t exactly hurt either.
This is the 3rd time in the Colonels last 6 games that EKU’s opponents have shot 55% or better from the field, and amazingly they actually won one of those games. In the 16 games before the stretch, only 2 of the Colonels opponents shot that well. This isn’t a team built to win a shootout, yet that’s the position their defense keeps putting them in.
[Eastern Illinois 45, Jacksonville State 63]
Well, it was an easy win. Just not the “easy win” that EIU beat writer envisioned. I bet he’s regretting those words right about now.
If the OVC tournament started today, the Panthers would be sitting it out, (accd. to the win column and head-to-head tiebreakers at least) and the way they’re playing these past 2 weeks, I think they’re the most likely to miss the tournament, with UT Martin.
Jeremy Granger has a rare bad night, finishing 3-11 from the field with just 8 points, and commits 6 turnovers, but Joey Miller has a horrid night: 0-8 from the field. This is dangerous territory for head coach Mike Miller, obviously the father of Joey. His son did, in my mind, earn the starting spot. But after these past 2 games, can you still justify him as a starter? I’ve heard a lot of fans lamenting Miller’s minutes in the lineup, but who do you put in his place? Is there anyone on the bench that has earned the right? This is looking like a lose-lose call for coach Miller, because I think the right call is keeping his son in the starting 5, but I’m betting most fans don’t agree at all.
Jacksonville State has shown flashes of a being a good team since conference play began, and their defense continues to be one of the strongest in the lead. The Gamecocks held EIU to 32% shooting, and pulled down 17 offensive rebounds. They still need to work on attacking the basket on offense, but they’ve been better scorers as of late. I think the Gamecocks will continue to surprise some teams down the stretch, and could be a 5 or 6 seed come tournament time.
[Austin Peay 60, SEMO 65]
The Redhawks tried really, really hard to lose this game. SEMO squandered a 17-point first half lead, but held on down to stretch to get a big win and end Austin Peay’s winning streak.
Tyler Stone and Leon Powell reminded all of us why they’re the best frontcourt in the OVC, both getting a double-double, and combining for 29 rebounds, 6 more than the Governors entire team. If they could have held on the basketball better (23 total turnovers, 17 in the first 24 minutes) and maybe hit a few more free throws (14-23 from the line) the Governors would have likely never gotten back into this game.
I think the Governors are going to be fine, but they simply took too many early loses to compete for the double-bye, but the Governors don’t matchup well against SEMO. They run an interior offense, because with Tyshwan Edmondson not shooting the ball well, they don’t have much of an outside shooting threat, and unless you get get to the line, you’re going to have a hard time scoring against the Redhawks interior.
[Tennessee State 72, UT Martin 59]
This was pretty much a classic Skyhawks game: close for 20 minutes, not so close at the end.
Mike Liabo has another poor shooting game, including just 1-6 from behind the arc, and commits 4 of the Skyhawks 20 turnovers. I feel bad for Liabo; he’s an emotional player who I like, he had a great freshman year with UTM, but is struggling without a true point guard on the squad, while overcoming injury.
Patrick Miller hasn’t been talked about much this year for the Tigers, and while he’s having a solid season, he’s hasn’t made the jump many expected after his amazing freshman year. If you compare his statistics this season with last, they’re almost identical across the board, which is good. But for the Tigers to make the next step, they need players like Miller to improve, not just stay the same.
1. Murray State (8-0) — GB
2. SEMO (6-2) 2 GB
3. Tennessee Tech (5-3) 3 GB
T4. Eastern Kentucky (5-4) 3.5 GB
T4. Austin Peay (5-4) 3.5 GB
T4. Tennessee State (5-4) 3.5 GB
7. Morehead State (4-4) 4 GB
*T8. SIU Edwardsville (3-5) 5 GB
T9. Jacksonville State (3-6) 5.5 GB
T9. Eastern Illinois (2-5) 5.5 GB
11. UT Martin (0-9) 8.5 GB
*Ineligible for OVC Tournament